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the American West 


Clemson Universi 


3 1604 019 677 550 







the American West 

Produced by the 
Division of Publications 
National Park Service 


U.S. Department of the Interior 
Washington, D.C. 1982 

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"The Trappers" by William 


National Park Handbooks, compact introductions to 
the great natural and historic places administered by 
the National Park Service, are designed to promote 
understanding and enjoyment of the parks. Each is 
intended to be informative reading and a useful guide 
before, during, and after a park visit. More than 100 
titles are in print. This is Handbook 1 16. You may 
purchase the handbooks through the mail by writing 
to Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government 
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402. 

About This Book 

When Thomas Jefferson took office as the third Presi- 
dent of the United States in 1801 , much of the land 
between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean 
was unknown territory belonging to France or Spain. 
By the time Rutherford B. Hayes left office as the 
nineteenth President in 1881 , this land was not only 
part of the United States but it had been explored, 
surveyed, mapped, photographed, and was rapidly 
being settled. Exploring the American West, 1803- 
1879, is the story of how and why all of this came 
about. It is published in cooperation with the Jefferson 
National Expansion Memorial as one of a series of 
titles on major themes in the park's Museum of West- 

wardfecpdnsioft^UtheiGa^way Arch. 

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Library of Congress Cataloging in Publications Data 

Exploring the American Wes,t ; 1803-1879. 
(National Park Handbook; 1 16) 
Includes index. 

1. West (U.S.)— Description and travel — To 1848 — Addresses, 
essays, lectures. 2. West 1&:$.±— ^ Description and travel— 1 848- 1 860 — 
Addresses, essays, lectures. 3. West (U.S.) — Description and travel — 
1860-1880 — Addresses, essays; lectures. 4. Explorers— West (U.S.) — 
Biography — Addresses, essays, lectures. 5. West (U.S.) — Discovery 
and exploration — Addresses, essays, lectures. 6. United States- 
Exploring expeditions — Addresses, essays, lectures. I. United States. 
National Park Service. Division of Publications. II. Series: Handbook 
(United States. National Park Service. Division of Publications); 1 16. 
F592.E96 1982 917.8 f 042 82-12483 


Parti The Lure of the West 5 

by Richard A. Battle tt 

Part 2 Explorer, Mountain Man, and Scientist 17 

by William H. Goetzmann 

Jeffersonian Pathfinders 21 
The Mountain Man As Explorer 35 
In Search of Exotic America: 
European Explorers in the West 55 
By Land and By Sea: Military 
Exploration of the Great West 65 
The Great Post-Civil War Surveys 83 

Part 3 The Pictorial Record 97 

The Artists 100 
The Mapmakers 106 
The Photographers 110 
Index 126 



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The Lure of the West 








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Canyon, Washington. 

About the time that Americans were waging war with Palous River Canyon, 
Mexico, talking of Manifest Destiny, and heading for Washington. 
Oregon and Utah, the New England author and ^TntwZZ^ 
naturalist Henry David Thoreau penned these words: 
"Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go free. 
... I should not lay so much stress on this fact, if I did 
not believe that something like this is the prevailing 
tendency of my countrymen. I must walk toward 
Oregon, and not toward Europe." 

During those same years, George Catlin, the great 
painter of Indians, wrote that several of his New 
York traveling companions had considered themselves 
"West" when they reached Niagara Falls. But at Buffa- 
lo, Catlin conversed with passengers debarking from 
a newly arrived steamboat. "Where from?" he asked. 
"From the West," they replied. In Ohio he found 
farmers selling out and heading west. Cincinnati, he 
was told, had seen better days: it was "not far enough 
West." In St. Louis his boarding house companions 
were described as being "from the 'West'." Catlin 
eventually went "West" up the muddy Missouri to the 
mouth of the Yellowstone. He found the West a state 
of mind, as much a national leaning as a physical 

After a trip to the United States, the British novelist 
Charles Dickens is said to have commented upon the 
unhappy pioneer who reached the Pacific Ocean and 
sobbed because he could go no further west. In the 
19th century, Americans had a maxim that the first 
question Westerners at the Pearly Gates asked of St. 
Peter was, "Which way is west?" 

Why the lure of the West? What is the attraction 
that draws people toward the setting sun? Perhaps the 
answer lies in discovering the simple motives of the 
early European settlers who began the trek when they 
trudged west from the forest-fringed shores of the 
Atlantic. So far as they could determine from descrip- 
tions given them by Indians or by traders and survey- 
ors who had penetrated the wilderness, westward lay a 
temperate-zone Eden. Nearly 2,000 years had elapsed 
since Europe and the British Isles had been so wild 
and new. This new land to the west, so these pioneers 
were told, was covered with forests teeming with 
game useful for food and clothing. Occasionally trees 
gave way to fertile prairies of high grass. The land was 
drained by streams of clear, pure water abounding in 
edible fish. Here and there were great fresh water 

lakes. Skies were filled with incredibly large flocks of 

To the newcomers, western America represented a 
challenge. As if by God's command, they wanted to 
bring it under the control of "civilized" people, raising 
the howling wilderness to the state of human society as 
they knew it. There was also the promise of new 
beginnings, of a life rich in all good things. The West 
only awaited men and women prepared to grasp the 
great opportunity before them. To this was added the 
mystery of what really lay out there, and the excite- 
ment and adventure involved in finding out. 

Thus did the West lure the English and their 
colonists. By 1700 it was also attracting persecuted 
Germans from the war-ravaged Palatinate along the 
Rhine. As neighbors in the West, the Germans often 
found lonely settlers from Ulster, the land-hungry 
Scotch-Irish. Huguenots (French protestants) also set- 
tled here and there in the back country. Occasionally 
a colonial white aristocrat, with his slaves, headed 
west for new lands also, his eastern acres having 
become sterile from overuse. By 1776 these peoples 
were mingling in the valleys of the Appalachians and 
even forging westward into Kentucky. 

The West attracted not just the ordinary family but 
also— albeit often as absentee landlords— men of wealth 
who wore powdered wigs and velvet breeches and 
shoes with silver buckles. To these affluent individuals 
the West represented potential wealth through trade 
and settlement. It was real estate to be sold. For 
over 100 years prior to 1800, eastern entrepreneurs 
had sent traders to fetch furs from the Indians, and 
surveyors to grasp the lay of the land for speculative 
investment. Most of these early land promotions 
failed, but in the process of developing their posses- 
sions the speculators inadvertently advertised the 
richness of the land, the abundance of the game, 
navigable rivers to carry produce to market, and the 
ease of getting there. Such information lured pioneers 
west in search of new homes. 

Yet the progress west was slow. When President 
Thomas Jefferson delivered his first inaugural address 
in 1801, the new country still contained less than 5V2 
million people (not including Indians), and one-fifth of 
these were black slaves. The young United States still 
hugged the narrow tidewater region along the Atlan- 
tic coast. Seldom did settlement extend more than 50 


miles inland, and two-thirds of the population resided 
there. The remaining third, the backwoodsmen or 
frontier people, lived somewhere beyond the Appala- 
chians or hidden amidst mountain valleys. Here they 
remained, physically separated from the nearest set- 
tlements to the east by at least 100 miles of wilderness, 
until they felt the urge to move west again. Intrinsically, 
these "men of the western waters" seemed oriented 
toward the Mississippi River and beyond. As the 19th 
century got underway, it was clear to many that the 
westward movement would constitute a major part of 
that century's history. 

Possessed as he was of a statesman's vision, Jefferson 
conceived of a West that stretched thousands of miles 
beyond the Mississippi to the Pacific. When he spoke 
of the Nation having "room enough for our descend- 
ants to the thousandth and ten thousandth genera- 
tion," he envisioned American settlement of the entire 
vast area. Barring a few rivers and lakes to cross, and 
a region in the far northwest that he referred to as "the 
Highlands," where several major rivers were believed 
to originate, our third President saw no reason why 
the American people should not expand to the Pacif- 
ic. Indeed, no one holding high office at the time was 
more fascinated with the West, and his insatiable 
curiosity led him to read all he could get his hands on 
concerning it, including books in Spanish and French. 
In Paris in the mid-1780s he tried to help a Connecti- 
cut yankee named John Ledyard, who proposed to 
cross Russia and Siberia, travel by boat across to 
North America, and then walk west to east until he 
reached white settlements. That project failed, but 
this did not deter Jefferson. Years later, back in 
America, he helped the French botanist Andre Michaux 
secure aid from the American Philosophical Society 
for a projected trip across the continent to the Pacific. 
Unfortunately, Michaux became embroiled in the 
unsavory schemes of Citizen Edmund Genet, and his 
mission was cancelled. 

Jefferson finally achieved success with Lewis and 
Clark, who started up the Missouri River in 1804 to 
explore the northern portion of the Louisiana Pur- 
chase. Later, he also sent men up the Ouchita and Red 
rivers in the Louisiana-Arkansas-Oklahoma-Texas re- 
gion. Zebulon Pike searched for the Mississippi's 
ultimate source (which he did not find) and subse- 
quently went west to the central Rockies. A lull 



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Old Lolo Trail Bitterroot 

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Pages 10-11: 

Teton Mountains, Wyoming. 

followed the War of 1812, but in 1820, during President 
Monroe's administration, Stephen H. Long explored 
Colorado from the Platte south to the Arkansas. In 
1842 John Charles Fremont began his great explora- 
tions of the American West. His reports were widely 

More information about the West came from pri- 
vate trappers and traders such as Jim Bridger and 
Jedediah Smith, artists such as George Catlin and 
Alfred Jacob Miller, and scientists such as geologist 
John S. Newberry and painter-naturalist John James 
Audubon. So alluring was the region that European 
sportsmen such as Sir William Drummond Stewart and 
Prince Maximilian of Wied came to hunt and see the 
wonderful new country. Fiction writers added still 
more interest. James Fenimore Cooper chose the 
West as the locale for his Leatherstocking Tales. 
Dozens of lesser, long-forgotten American writers in 
the period after 1830 also wrote on western themes. 

Even as explorers, trappers, artists, and sportsmen 
explored the West, the plain, common people by the 
tens and hundreds of thousands were filling in what 
had been until recently the frontier. "Go West and 
grow up with the country" was the suggestion, and 
they heeded its challenge. For these people no sacri- 
fice was too great, no temporary hardships too 
demeaning, to deter them in their westward drive. 
There's a great day comin'," they assured one an- 
other. They were convinced that their new homes in 
the West would bring them a better life within the 
framework of a finer civilization than they had known 
"back east" or "back in the old country." In covered 
wagons and two-wheeled carts, leading pack-horses 
loaded with their worldly possessions, manning the 
"sweep" (the long oar) of a flatboat, the emigrants 
headed west. At times, it was said, the whole Nation 
seemed to have succumbed to the westward fever. 

While thousands were making homes in the West, 
others were lured by the glitter of precious metals. 
California beckoned in 1849 and Pike's Peak— really 
Colorado's central Rockies— in 1859, and through the 
middle decades of the century many other regions 
were opened up to mining. With the intensive 
prospecting came stories of magnificent natural won- 
ders: Yosemite, California's big trees, the Grand 
Canyon of the Colorado, the wonders of Yellowstone. 
One day people would come just to see these "beaut- 


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ies" of the country, even if they had no plans to Captains Rocks, Columbia 
remain there. River, Washington 

Before the Civil War, a dynamic booster named 
William Gilpin was busy ridiculing Stephen Long's 
judgment that the Great Plains was a "Great Ameri- 
can Desert," insisting that the area could support a 
substantial population devoted to pastoral pursuits. 
With the war over and railroads pushing westward 
and a strong demand existing for beef in the growing 
cities of the East, the years of the open cattle industry 
began in 1866 and would continue until 1886. Profits 
of 25 percent on the investment were believed possi- 
ble. Affluent Easterners, as well as British and Euro- 
pean investors, were now lured west by the beef 
bonanza, while dime novel writers, always in search of 
new western subjects, made the cowboy a new folk 

In those same post-Civil War years, railroad promo- 
tions, the Homestead Act offering 160 acres of land 
free if it was improved for 5 years, new developments 
in agricultural machinery, and a series of wet years all 
lured new thousands of farmers into the Great Plains. 
The attraction was land, and with it came a new sense 
of dignity, freedom, and material well-being. Even 
after the West was settled and the frontier declared 
officially closed, there remained an afterglow of en- 
thusiasm for western things, love of western vistas and 
western ways, right down to the present. Still, it is a 
certainty that the 19th century was America's century 
of the West. It has become a Golden Age, with tales 
of explorers and settlers, stage coaches and railroads, 
and cowboys and Indians, still gripping us in their 
timeless appeal. 

These and other stories and themes of the westward 
movement are represented in the National Park Ser- 
vice's Museum of Westward Expansion under the 
Gateway Arch at Jefferson National Expansion Me- 
morial in St. Louis, Mo. Of all the myriad facets of 
western American history, however, perhaps none is 
more interesting and alluring than the story of the 
exploration of the trans-Mississippi West between 
1803 and 1879. It is this story which Pulitzer Prize- 
winning historian William H. Goetzmann synthesizes 
in the following pages. 

Richard A. Battled 



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ntam Man 



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The exploration of the trans-Mississippi West was Americas 
greatest adventure and its most important contribution 
to a new age of discovery that dominated the 19th 
century. To most citizens of the western world, North 
America was an unknown country in 1800. When Presi- 
dent Thomas Jefferson bought Louisiana from France in 
1803, neither he nor Napoleon, nor the Spaniards who 
lived on its fringes, knew exactly what the United States 
had acquired. The width of the continent was known, 
thanks to Alexander MacKenzie's trek across Canada in 
1793. Spanish and English mariners had charted the 
Pacific Coast with some accuracy. California was dotted 
with Spanish missions as far north as San Francisco Bay. 
Intrepid conquistadors and missionaries had penetrated 
deep into Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and 

Coronado had crossed the Great Plains into Kansas as 
early as 1540. By 1800, however, only a few Spaniards 
had ventured out across those same Great Plains to the 
Mississippi in his footsteps. And to the north only a few 
daring French traders had ventured down from Canada 
to the upper Missouri that, for all one knew, coursed 
straight from the Pacific in a northwest passage. Jedediah 
Morse's map in the first American geography book ( 1797) 
was a typical summary of the white man's knowledge of 
the West: it contained mostly blank spaces or else myth- 
ical rivers and apocryphal kingdoms. Morse's map, like 
most others of the day, reflected a certain innocence and 
credulity. To most Americans, the trans-Mississippi West 
was a new world. At the great river America started over 

Unknown to Americans in 1800, the country that 
stretched west beyond the Mississippi was so immense 
and varied that it stunned the imagination of those who 
eventually saw it, crossed it, came to terms with it, 
conquered it, or were conquered by it. First the Great 
Plains— a "great prairie ocean" some called them — 
stretched on forever, cut by innumerable shallow rivers 
along whose beds grew the only trees in sight. These 
rivers, principally the Missouri and the Platte, pointed 
the way across the otherwise trackless prairies and a sea 
of grass to the mountains that lay beyond. Early explor- 
ers called the region "The Great American Desert," and 
saw it as unfit for civilized settlement. Yet, in both 
summer and winter, it teemed with game of all kinds. 
Deer, elk, bear, wild turkeys, mountain sheep, badger, 
porcupine, rabbits, and wolves abounded; but the most 

President Thomas Jefferson 
became the architect of U.S. 
westward expansion in 1804 
by sending Meriwether Lewis 
and William Clark on their 
trailblazing "voyage of 
discovery "through parts of 
the Louisiana Territory to the 
Pacific Northwest. Pages 16- 
17: "Surveyor's Wagon in the 
Rockies " bv Albert Bierstadt. 


spectacular wildlife were the vast herds of buffalo. To 
the first explorers the Great Plains must have seemed a 
paradise of flocks and herds, while the shallow rivers 
teemed with fish, beaver, and waterfowl. 

Beyond the plains loomed the Rockies, foothills at 
first, then towering masses of craggy peaks, cut by passes 
and separated by "parks" or upland prairies. Great 
rivers— the Missouri, the Snake, the Green, the Colo- 
rado and the Yellowstone— tore through them, affording 
paths for the explorers. The mountains, too, abounded 
with game, but it was their rich, cold beaver streams that 
attracted the earliest pathfinders. Beyond the mountains 
stretched a real desert— the Great Basin— where a whole 
generation searched for that one river— the mythical 
"Rio Buenaventura"— that would provide easy access 
across to the Pacific. They never found it. 

The southern Great Plains were more arid than the 
northern, and the southern Rockies were a formidable 
obstacle to travelers, but the old Spanish city of Santa 
Fe provided a welcome destination. Beyond Santa Fe 
was a country of terrifying grandeur that included the 
rugged valley of the San Juan River, the high plateaus of 
Utah, the gorges of the Little Colorado, and the Grand 
Canyon. Farther south there was little but desert and 
isolated volcanic mountain peaks. Beyond all these to 
the West, before one reached California, lay the Mojave 
Desert, Death Valley, hundreds of miles of sand dunes, 
120-degree temperatures, and little water. After sur- 
mounting these obstacles, a traveler reached the south- 
ern Sierra, crossed over them, and, descending in stages 
to the coast, saw whales spouting out in the endless 
Pacific. The trans-Mississippi West was big country, so 
big it took a generation to even begin to assimilate it to 
the imagination. 

It was not empty country. Clouds of Plains Indians- 
Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Pawnee, Osage, Comanche 
and Kiowa— followed the buffalo herds on horseback. 
The rivers were the homes of the more sedentary 
tribes— the Omaha, Arikara, Mandan, Otoe, and Kansa 
to name a few. In the mountains dwelt the Crow, Blackfeet, 
Gros Ventre, Flathead, Snake, Bannock, Ute, and Paiute. 
To the south Apache and Navajo waged continual war 
on the Pueblo whose stacked up apartment houses along 
the river valleys were among the largest man-made struc- 
tures in the world. The Southwestern river tribes— the 
Papago, Pima, Mohave, Chemhuevi, and Yaqui— were 
ever present. Some lived in the forbidding reaches of the 


Grand Canyon while others lived in wretched stick wick- 
iups out in the desert, subsisting on rodents, snakes, and 
insects. The Indians were as varied as the complex west- 
ern landscape. To the explorers they were endlessly 
intriguing and exotic as well as often times dangerous 
and menacing. 

The Indians were, of course, the first known explorers 
of the West. They knew the rivers and the passes through 
the Rockies and they knew the trails across the plains on 
either side. Nearly every exploring party depended upon 
the Indian's knowledge of the West, and the earliest 
explorers of the Rockies saw the logic of turning Indian 
themselves if they were to survive in the trackless wil- 

Jeffersonian Pathfinders 

Each age and each people produces its own explorers 
who, knowingly or not, traverse the same ground for 
different purposes and under different conditions. In the 
19th century, the citizens of the United States of America 
began the great adventure anew. The first transconti- 
nental expedition, led by the Great Captains, Meriwether 
Lewis and William Clark, will forever hold a place in the 
history of exploration. President Jefferson had planned 
and proposed the undertaking even before the purchase 
of Louisiana. In 1802 he had tried unsuccessfully to 
persuade the Spanish ambassador to grant the United 
States permission to send an expedition into the West 
(which Spain laid claim to) on a "literary" or scientific 
mission. Jefferson, nevertheless, was determined to go 
ahead with the expedition, and on February 23, 1803, 
Congress voted funds to support the project as a com- 
mercial venture. 

In truth, Jefferson, ever a lover of science, had both 
objectives in mind. He was as interested as anyone in 
making contact with the western tribes and securing the 
potentially rich fur trade for the United States. But he 
also had much broader objectives. One of these was a 
lingering hope that Lewis and Clark would discover the 
fabled Northwest Passage across the continent. To this 
end he directed them to travel the Missouri and Colum- 
bia rivers in an effort to find "the most direct and practi- 
cal water communication across the continent for purposes 
of commerce." If Americans could locate and somehow 
control such a riverine Northwest Passage, then the 
United States could dominate not only the western half 

Lewis and Clark gave peace 
medals to various Indian 
chiefs to help establish 
friendly relations with their 
tribes. These silver and cop- 
per medals bore the likeness 
of Washington or Jefferson 
on one side, and various in- 
scriptions on the other. The 
one shown here is the Jeffer- 
son Peace and Friendship 
Medal of 180 J. 


***»* Treaty Line of 


South Pass, i, w e £ i^ 


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(To Mexico) V^^ 

Jeffersonian Pathfinders 

Lewis and Clark 
1804-1805 (outbound) 

Lewis and Clark 
1806 (return) 



.Site of Reunion 

Mandan a 

Arikara Villages 









River a Pawnee Villages 








Sgt. Floyd's Gravesitd\ 



Pawnee Villages a,^-*^ 

Jlcantonment Missouri 
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Meriwether Lewis (top) and 
William Clark. Their epic 
journey sparked an era of 
western exploration that 
lasted throughout most of the 
1 9th century. 

of the continent but the growing trade with China as 

The key to such control, however, was knowledge of 
and good relations with the numerous Indian tribes who 
inhabited the region. Many a fur trader who had started 
from St. Louis and made his way up the Missouri had 
been stopped by the warlike Arikara or the Sioux. Thus 
Jefferson instructed Lewis and Clark to deal with the 
Indians very carefully and to study them in all their ways, 
whether war or peace. He wished precise knowledge 
about their customs. His love for ethnology would have 
demanded this in any case, but he also wanted to know in 
detail the structure of Indian alliances and their ways of 
making war and with whom. Beyond all this they were to 
report on the "soil and face of the country," taking due 
note of all animals, plants, and minerals that might redound 
to commercial advantage— or provide a base for future 
American settlers. In short, true to the scientific spirit of 
the American Philosophical Society for the Promotion 
of Useful Knowledge, of which he was a prominent 
member, Jefferson proposed to use science as a means of 
establishing a new farwestern frontier for America. 

On May 14, 1804, the Corps of Discovery, as the 
43-man expedition was called, left Camp Wood on the 
Wood River just below the confluence of the Mississippi 
and the Missouri near St. Louis. Lewis, who joined the 
expedition after the first two days, had been specially 
trained for the mission by the leading scientific men of 
Philadelphia. Clark, a bluff soldier, was the woodsman 
par excellence. Before the journey was over each officer 
had mastered the skills of the other and their remarkable 
cooperation made the success of the journey possible. 

For 7 months the Corps of Discovery toiled up the 
winding Missouri, often hauling their heavy keelboat 
upstream by lines while rain turned the footing along the 
banks to mud. Along the way they had little trouble with 
Indians, and only one man fell a casualty: Sgt. Charles 
Floyd died of what was probably appendicitis and was 
buried on a bluff overlooking the river. Wherever they 
could, Lewis and Clark held councils with the Missouri 
River tribes in an effort to win their allegiance to the 
United States. 

Winter quarters were established far upriver 4 miles 
below the Mandan Villages near present day Bismarck, 
N.D. Here Lewis and Clark hired fur trader Touissant 
Charbonneau to serve as cook and translator and who 
prevailed upon them to bring along his young Indian 


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Few explorers have provided 
such exhaustive and accurate 
information as that collected 
by Lewis and Clark on the 
regions they traversed. Their 
journals and notebooks, 
laboriously maintained 
throughhout their journey, 
contain observations about 
the characteristics, inhabi- 
tants, and resources of the 
country through which thev 
passed. As a result, thev 
amassed far more reliable 
data on the West than had 
ever been acquired before. 

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These sample pages from 
their elkskin-hound journals 
give an idea of the kinds of 
information they brought 
back to Jefferson and. ulti- 
mately, the world. 

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Historians still debate the 
contributions of Sacagawea 
t above) to the Lewis and 
Clark Expedition, but she 
did help to smooth relations 
with a number of tribes along 
the way. Right: Recon- 
structed Fort Clatsop. Ore- 
gon, the expedition s 1805-6 
winter quarters. 

wife, Sacagawea, for possible assistance in translating. 
Here also they met agents of the Canadian Northwest 
Company of fur traders who inquired as to their inten- 
tions. Already a trading frontier or national sphere of 
influence had begun to be established. 

In the spring a small party was sent downstream on the 
keelboat with scientific specimens and notebooks while 
the rest of the party continued up the Missouri. They 
traveled around the great bend of the Missouri, past the 
mouth of the Yellowstone and the Great Falls to the 
Three Forks of the Missouri. After some discussion they 
finally followed the western, or Jefferson, fork. Then, 
after crossing Lemhi Pass, they met Sacagaweas Snake 
Indian relatives, who guided them over the difficult 
mountain ranges of Idaho to the Salmon River and the 
Bitterroot Valley. From a point which they called "Trav- 
ellers' Rest," near present-day Missoula, Mont., they 
crossed over, via Lolo Pass, to the Clearwater which 
flowed into the Snake and thence the Columbia. On 
December 5, 1805, they reached the shores of the Pacif- 
ic. As if to document the presence of the United States 
on that remote coast, Clark carved on a tall yellow pine: 
k ' William Clark December 3rd 1805. By Land from the 
U. States in 1804 and 1805." Then they built the first 
American station in the region, Fort Clatsop, and went 
into winter quarters. 

On the return trip the party divided after crossing Lolo 
Pass. Lewis continued over what is now called "Lewis 
and Clark Pass" and reached the Missouri above the 
Great Falls via the Sun River. He then explored the 
Marias River, during which time the expedition suffered 
its only hostile encounter with Indians. Clark generally 
retraced the outbound route, reached the Three Forks 
of the Missouri River, and crossed over to the Yellowstone, 
which he followed northeast to its juncture with the 
Missouri. There on August 12, 1806, he was reunited 
with Lewis, who had been wounded in a hunting acci- 
dent the day before, and the Corps of Discovery proceeded 
down the Missouri to St. Louis where they were greeted 
with what fanfare the frontier settlement of St. Louis 
could muster. 

The importance of the Lewis and Clark expedition 
was monumental. It revealed the geography of the Mis- 
souri River, the northern Rockies, and the lower Colum- 
bia to entrepreneurs and officials of the United States. It 
also inspired the public. And it established at Fort Clatsop 
a foothold on the Pacific Coast that would be useful in 


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Gateway to the West 

From its modest beginning 
as a tiny trading post founded 
by French fur traders from 
New Orleans in 1764, St. 
Louis became the mercantile 
center and supply base for 
most of the western country, 
and for many decades it re- 
mained the chief emporium 
of the Louisiana Territory. 
Goods flowed through here 
into the Indian country and 
furs and peltries flowed back 
for shipment to Montreal. 
New Orleans, and Europe. 

When the Louisiana Terri- 
tory was transferred to the 
United States in 1804, St. 

Louis dominated western 
trading activities. Its strategic 
location on a flood-free bluff, 
convenient to the Ohio, Mis- 
souri, and other river ap- 
proaches, made St. Louis the 
hub of mid-continental com- 
merce, transportation, and 
culture, and a gateway to the 
wilderness beyond. It soon 
became the starting point for 
government-sponsored ex- 
ploring expeditions like those 
of Lewis and Clark, Zebulon 
Pike, Stephen H. Long, and 
John C. Fremont, and for sci- 
entific, artistic, and literary 
travelers like Thomas Nuttall, 
John James Audubon, and 

Washington Irving. 

Most of all, however, St. 
Louis was the headquarters 
of the western fur trade. 
Manuel Lisa, Auguste and 
Pierre Chouteau, William 
Ashley, William Sublette, 
and other leaders of the fur 
trade made their homes here 
and directed the activities 
of the trappers and traders 
on whom they depended. 
Along the waterfront, tower- 
ing steamboats from the East 
and South met smaller river 
craft serving the frontier 
communities and outposts on 
the upper Mississippi and 





«%■ T 

Missouri rivers. Stores, ware- 
houses, boatyards, saloons, 
and roominghouses were 
erected to handle the new 

The St. Louis waterfront, 
shown here in an 1832 paint- 
ing by French artist Leon 
Pomarade, remained the 
marketplace of the frontier 
for many years. Oregon 
pioneers and California gold 
seekers congregated here to 
buy tools and supplies before 
setting out across the plains. 
In turn, lumbermen, planters, 
farmers, fur traders, and local 
craftsmen sold their products 

to an eager and ever-growing 
clientele. Silversmith Antoine 
Dangen furnished the Indian 
trade with "well assorted In- 
dian Silver Ware," including 
arm bands, head bands, 
brooches, hair ornaments, 
and silver-trimmed pipes and 
tomahawks. Gunsmiths Jacob 
and Samuel Hawken supplied 
pistols and a favorite rifle to 
trappers and hunters for more 
than three decades. Saddler 
Thornton Grimsley crafted 
dragoon saddles, harness, and 
military accoutrements for 
the U.S. Army. Sailmaker 
John Clemens kept a constant 
supply of "tarpauline, oil 

cloth, over clothes, dray and 
wagon covers, pilot cloth 
bags, and pack saddles, block 
tackles, splicing ropes of all 
kinds," to meet the needs of 
westward-bound travelers. 
And there were Newell & < 
Sutton plows, Murphy wag- 
ons for the Santa Fe trade, 
and the castiron stoves of 
Filley and Bridge & Beach. 

"It is doubtful," wrote fur- 
trade historian Hiram M. 
Chittenden, "if history af- 
fords the example of another 
city which has been the ex- 
clusive mart for so vast an 
extent of country." 



Zebulon M. Pike led the first 
American exploring expedi- 
tion across the central plains 
into Colorado and the South- 
west. He discovered the peak 
which today bears his name. 

later diplomatic maneuvering. Equally important, some- 
thing of the richness and abundance of the trans- 
Mississippi West became clear, in official circles at least. 
Unfortunately, on the way to Washington, Meriwether 
Lewis died mysteriously on the Natchez Trace in Missis- 
sippi. The expeditions notebooks and maps were scattered, 
and the scientific collections were displayed as curiosi- 
ties in Charles Willson Peale's museum at Philadelphia. 
The first published account of the heroic trek was Sgt. 
Patrick Gass' matter-of-fact journal, brought out by 
Matthew Carey of Philadelphia in 1807. It was not until 
1814 that Nicholas Biddle and Paul Allen edited and 
published Lewis and Clark's own version of the expedi- 

Throughout his presidency Jefferson's curiosity about 
the West continued unabated. He was, of course, partic- 
ularly concerned about the boundaries of the Louisiana 
Purchase. He sent repeated expeditions up the Red River 
of Louisiana. One by William Dunbar and George Hunter 
in 1804 was thwarted by Osage Indians. Another led by 
Capt. Thomas Sparks in 1806 went nearly 700 miles 
upstream before it was turned back by a detachment of 
Spanish cavalry. Spain looked upon the Great Plains as a 
buffer between its North American possessions and the 
aggressive new nation. Questioning the legality of his 
purchase, the Spanish maintained that Jefferson had 
acquired nothing from Napoleon. 

Ironically, it was left to the co-conspirator of Jefferson's 
political rival, Aaron Burr, to test Spain's intentions in 
the Southwest. Unwittingly, Jefferson had appointed Gen. 
James Wilkinson as governor of the Louisiana Territory 
in 1805. Wilkinson was in the pay of Spain, which sought 
to detach the trans-Appalachian country from the United 
States. He was also conspiring with Burr to carve out an 
independent southwestern empire at Spain's expense. 
But if he were to accomplish this he needed to know 
everything possible about Spanish strength in New Mexico 
and Texas. Accordingly, and on his own, he sent Lt. 
Zebulon Pike out across the prairies in the summer of 
1806 with orders to locate the headwaters of the Red 
River, which was thought to be the northern boundary 
with New Spain. Pike's real mission was to reach Santa 
Fe and spy on the Spaniards. 

Only partially aware of the devious machinations that 
undergirded his mission, Pike left Belle Fontaine near St. 
Louis and crossed the Great Plains, stopping to cement 
alliances with the Osage and the Pawnee. Far out on the 


plains he struck the trail of a man sent from Santa Fe to 
intercept him, Don Facundo Malgares, and followed it 
backwards towards Santa Fe. When he reached the 
Arkansas River, he sent his lieutenant (James Wilkinson's 
son) downriver with maps and dispatches for the general. 
Then he turned west toward the Rockies which he first 
sighted on November 15, 1806. He explored the southern 
Rockies for two months, discovered and named Pike's 
Peak, and climbed Cheyenne Peak from which he could 
see the whole of the southern Rockies. 

Pike crossed the mountains and went into winter 
encampment on a tributary of the Upper Rio Grande, 
where he was taken into custody by Spanish soldiers. 
Knowing his mission was to reach Santa Fe, Pike 
nonetheless feigned surprise when captured by Spanish 
soldiers. "What! Is this not the Red River?" he exclaimed. 

Pike's capture by the Spaniards and subsequent release 
in Texas gave him the chance to reconnoiter practically 
all of New Spain, which he did with great acumen. 
Eventually he produced an extensive set of journal notes 
and one of the major maps of the whole West. Perhaps 
the most influential observation that Pike made, howev- 
er, was his unfortunate characterization of the south- 
western plains as a "Great American Desert" unfit for 
civilized inhabitants. This assessment— whether designed 
to camouflage the Burr- Wilkinson scheme or not— 
stamped an image of a desolate Southwest on the public 
mind for most of the 19th century. 

Pike's description of the Great Plains as the "Great 
American Desert" was seemingly confirmed by Maj. 
Stephen H. Long's expedition of 1819-20. Originally sent 
by Secretary of War John C. Calhoun as part of a show of 
force on the Upper Missouri and the Yellowstone designed 
to frighten the British traders out of U.S. territory, Long's 
contingent was diverted out across the southwestern 
plains to the Rocky Mountains. A seasoned explorer and 
man of science, and accompanied by a corps of savants, 
Long surveyed the Great Plains and carefully mapped 
the whole region. He climbed Pike's Peak and measured 
its altitude, and his artist, Samuel Seymour, drew the first 
views of the Front Range of the Rockies. Then Long 
divided his forces, sending one part down the Arkansas 
River where several of the men deserted with all the 
maps and notes, while he continued in search of the 
sources of the Red River. Finally, so he thought, he 
found them and embarked downstream, his mission com- 
pleted, only to find to his mortification that he had 

Stephen H. Long. Following 
his 1819 expedition to the 
Rocky Mountains, he called 
the Great Plains— now Kan- 
sas, Nebraska. Oklahoma, 
and eastern Colorado — in- 
hospitable to settlement and 
compared them to African 


picked the wrong river. He had cruised down the Cana- 
dian, not the Red River. This was an important error 
because even as Long searched for that elusive river, 
John Quincy Adams was concluding the Transcontinen- 
tal Boundary Treaty with Spain in which the exact loca- 
tion of the river figured importantly. Nonetheless, for the 
vast region he did cover, Longs work was important. His 
map of 1821 was among the most significant the country 
had produced in that it was based on the accurate fixing 
of geographical points. Unfortunately, his work was 
overshadowed by that of the more dramatic Zebulon 

Three of Pike's concepts dominated Americans think- 
ing about the West for several generations. Most believed 
that the plains were a "Great American Desert" fit only 
for Indians and unsuitable for white settlement. Most 
also believed that the southern Rockies and the Upper 
Missouri country were close neighbors, ignoring the exist- 
ence of what came to be Colorado. And finally a whole 
succession of explorers, geographers, and mapmakers 
agreed with Pike that somewhere in the heart of the 
Rockies must be "a grand reservoir of snows and foun- 
tains" from which rivers flowed towards all points of the 
compass. If the source could be found, then a navigable 
river flowing west to the Pacific was also certain to be 
found. The ancient Spanish myth of a "Rio Buenaventura" 
flowing west to the sea would not die. 

Jefferson's interest in the West continued even after 
he left the presidency. With his strong encouragement 
John Jacob Astor, an enterprising New York fur mer- 
chant, launched what could only be called a global 
venture to the Northwest coast. Inspired by the Cana- 
dian Northwestern Fur Company, he formed the Pacific 
Fur Company in 1810 and the following year sent a party 
overland via the Missouri, the Snake, and the Columbia 
to the Pacific. Astor also sent a ship, the Tonquin, loaded 
with trade goods, around Cape Horn to rendezvous with 
the overland explorers at the mouth of the Columbia. 
His plan was to tap the fur trade of the Northwest and 
ship it to China aboard the Tonquin. This plan was 
perhaps too intricate and grandiose but it achieved sev- 
eral important results. 

The overland expedition, led by Wilson Price Hunt, 
left St. Louis in March 1811, ascended the Missouri as far 
as the Arikara villages and, switching to horses, set out 
across the Dakotas in July. In so doing, Hunt and his men 
broke a new trail across the West. They negotiated the 


Dakota Badlands, penetrated the northern Rockies, 
marched up the Wind River Valley, crossed the Conti- 
nental Divide at Union Pass near the head of the Wind 
River Range, and trekked through Jackson's Hole, Pierre's 
Hole, and across the wastelands of southern Idaho to the 
Snake River, which they followed to the Columbia. The 
overland crossing, however, had not been an easy one. 
Game was scarce along the route; the Snake River 
proved not to be navigable; the morale of the party 
suffered; they became split and lost. In fact, not until the 
spring of 1812 did the final elements of the party reach 
the mouth of the Columbia. Hunt's expedition had 
discovered an overland route south of that taken by 
Lewis and Clark, but the country through which it passed 
seemed a mountainous desert rather than a western 

While Hunt and his band struggled overland, the 
Tonquin and its crew reached the Columbia, entered it 
by passing over the difficult bar at its mouth, and in April 

181 1 set up Fort Astoria on the south bank. This represented 
still another claim to the Northwest Territory, though 
not, as it turned out, a permanent one. Leaving the fort in 
the hands of an acting resident agent, the Tonquin 
sailed north to trade with the exotic tribes of Vancouver 
Island. Here, in June 1811, trouble with the Indians 
developed due to the cruelty of the ship's captain, Jonathan 
Thorn. A tribe of Indians overwhelmed the ship and 
killed its entire crew save one. A mortally wounded 
seaman named Thomas Lewis managed to fire the pow- 
der magazine while marauders swarmed aboard and the 
explosion blew the Tonquin and several hundred Salish 
Indians to smithereens. Astoria's main link to the outside 
world was gone. 

But Astoria was not destined to be isolated for long. 
The first contingent of Hunt's party arrived in February 

1812 and by May trading activity had begun in earnest. 
The War of 1812, however, doomed the Astor enter- 
prise. In the spring of 1813 John George McTavish led a 
ragged band of Northwest Company men up to the gates 
of the fort, informed its inhabitants of the war that 
existed between Britain and the United States, and 
demanded its surrender. McTavish and his men were 
soon backed up by the British man of war H.M.S. Rac- 
coon but such force was not necessary. Astor's men 
quickly agreed to haul down the flag and sell out to the 
British. Some, like Donald McKenzie, even joined them. 
It was clear that Astor's objectives were economic rather 

John Jacob Astor, founder of 
the American Fur Company. 
His grandiose plans to mo- 
nopolize western fur-trading 
activities ended when the 
British took possession of 
Fort Astoria at the beginning 
of the War of 1812. 


than political, and Jefferson himself was known to favor 
only the establishment of "sister republics' in the far west 
rather than an imperial extension of the United States. 
Before Astoria surrendered, however, Astor employee 
Robert Stuart and six men (one of whom went insane) set 
out eastward across the mountains to St. Louis. Their 
march was full of hardships, and the possibility of starva- 
tion always confronted them. The Blue Mountains and 
the Snake River country proved especially difficult, and 
a detour far north to Jackson's Hole to avoid Indians 
nearly destroyed them. They finally arrived in St. Louis 
on April 30, 1813, having conquered the Rockies in the 
dead of winter. More importantly, with the exception of 
the detour to Jackson's Hole, they had located and trav- 
ersed what would become the Oregon Trail. The most 
important features they had discovered were South Pass 
across the mountains at the south end of the Wind River 
Range and the Sweetwater River route to the Platte, 
which they followed across the plains. South Pass would 
become the "great gate" through which hundreds of 
thousands of immigrants would pour on their way west. 

Two trappers indulge in an 
unusual moment of repose 
in this 1837 painting by Balti- 
more artist Alfred Jacob 

The Mountain Man As Explorer 

Meanwhile a new breed of western explorer had begun 
to appear on the scene— the mountain man. Part roman- 
tic adventurer and part self-made entrepreneur, the moun- 
tain man was a characteristically American figure who 
had no counterpart in Europe or anywhere else in the 
world. He was essentially a hunter who roamed the 
Rockies for years at a time, exploiting their bounty in 
beaver furs, enjoying the life of the great outdoors, while 
hoping to make his fortune. Some, like William Ashley, 
Robert Campbell, and William Sublette, did prosper, but 
most never quite realized their American dream. 

The life of the mountain man, armed only with his 
Hawken rifle, a knife, maybe a hatchet, and a small 
"possibles sack" into which he stuffed food, tobacco, 
small tools, and bullets, was rugged and dangerous. If the 
perils of nature, starvations or wild animals did not get 
him, hostile Indians tried to. Nonetheless, the mountain 
man loved the grand freedom of the Rockies, the adven- 
ture, and the questing after the new. This was what made 
him an explorer. And his life, so close to the Indians, so 
attuned to their knowledge, so adapted to their ways, 
made him an expert explorer. 

The first mountain men were members of Lewis and 


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The World of the Mountain Man 





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Boon's Lick 
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Fort Smith 

A R K A 

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St. Louis 




Manuel Lisa. Many of his 
contemporaries considered 
him a scoundrel but his trap- 
ping expeditions to the upper 
Missouri River and beyond 
spurred St. Louis' economic 
growth and added sub- 
stantially to knowledge of 
the trans-Mississippi West. 

Clark's Corps of Discovery. Pvt. John Colter left the 
expedition on the way home, far up the Missouri, to join 
two outward bound hunters for a season of beaver trap- 
ping. George Drouillard also became a famous moun- 
tain man shortly after. Both men worked for Manuel 
Lisa, a wily Spaniard who had come to St. Louis from 
New Orleans, and of whom it was said "rascality sat on 
every aspect of his dark-complexioned Mexican face." 
So hated by most of his men that he dare not turn his 
back on them, Lisa was nonetheless a very successful fur 
trade entrepreneur. 

Lisa immediately grasped the potential of Lewis and 
Clark's discoveries. Forbidden by Federal authorities to 
operate in the new Louisiana Territory, as early as April 
1807 he nonetheless launched a 42-man expedition up 
the Missouri. Making his way past the now-hostile river 
tribes, especially the Arikara, he established a fort (Manuel's 
Fort) in the heart of the Rocky Mountain Indian country 
at the junction of the Bighorn and Yellowstone rivers in 
central Montana. From there he sent out small parties of 
men in all directions. In the winter of 1807, John Colter, 
armed with only a pistol and a pack of trade goods, set 
off westward past present-day Cody, Wyo., where he 
discovered an extensive geyser basin forever after dubbed 
(in derision) "Colter's Hell." More importantly, he crossed 
over the Absaroka Mountains into the wintery beauty of 
Jackson's Hole, and thence past the towering Tetons to 
Pierre's Hole. After wintering here, Colter turned for 
home. On the way back he discovered the wonders of 
what is now Yellowstone Park. Few, however, would 
believe his stories about what he had seen. 

While Colter was adventuring to the southwest in 
Pierre's Hole, George Drouillard explored the entire 
Tongue River and Big Horn Basins. He drew a crude 
map of where he had been, alluding to the supposed 
existence of Spanish outposts a "few days" march south 
on the Green River. He had looked for a transmontane 
passage southward to those Spanish settlements, but he 
could not get over the relatively low Owl Creek Range 
into the Wind River Valley, which would have led him to 
South Pass. From there he could have crossed westward 
to the Green River and the area of the supposed Spanish 
settlements. Nonetheless, Drouillard possessed great knowl- 
edge of the northern beaver country, which, because of 
his map, did not die with him when he was killed on John 
Colter's last expedition to the Three Forks of the Mis- 
souri in 1810. 


Still another of Lisas explorers did succeed, though 
with great hardship and difficulty, in breaking out to the 
south. In 1811 Ezekiel Williams and a band of trappers 
marched southeast of the Big Horn Mountains, crossed 
the valley of the North Platte and continued south, west 
of the front range of the Rockies, through the beautiful 
interior parks of Colorado. Unfortunately, most of his 
band were either killed or captured by the Arapaho. 
Williams himself was captured, but favored by luck, he 
was rescued after several months and sent on his way 
down the Arkansas River, arriving at Boon's Lick Trad- 
ing Post in September 1813. Williams had discovered 
Colorado and its rich, beautiful beaver country beyond 
the mountains. His knowledge, which never reached 
cartographers, should have made clear the immense 
north-south distance of the Rocky Mountain country. 

While Lisa's men were exploring the tributaries of the 
Upper Missouri and looking for a transmontane route to 
the Spanish settlements at Taos and Santa Fe, Jacques 
Clamorgan, Lisa's secret partner, circumvented govern- 
ment edicts against operating in the Louisiana Territory 
and in 1807 had made his way across the plains and into 
Santa Fe hard on the heels of Zebulon Pike's ill-fated 
expedition. There he awaited the arrival of Lisa's men 
from the north in vain. 

During the next decade increasing numbers of Ameri- 
can adventurers made their way from St. Louis across 
the Southwest and into the Spanish capital. Most were 
humiliated and ejected or imprisoned by the wary 
Spaniards. In 1821, however, on the heels of Mexico's 
declaration of independence from Spain, the trader William 
Becknell led a party into Santa Fe and realized a hand- 
some profit. The people of the northern province now 
welcomed trade with the Americans, and the trade was 
so rich that Becknell hurried back to Missouri in January 
1822 in time to return the same year with another cara- 
van. In so doing he laid out the Santa Fe Trail over which 
thousands of freight wagons and soldiers would pass. 

Almost from the beginning mountain men filtered 
into Santa Fe and Taos. In 1822 William Wolf skill trapped 
both the lower and upper Rio Grande. The following 
year he ascended the Rio Grande, crossed over the 
Continental Divide and explored the San Juan River 
country of northwestern New Mexico and southern Col- 
orado. He brought back a fortune in furs, and by 1824 at 
least four other parties had rushed to the San Juan 
country in his footsteps. Though the Spaniards had long 


3fc,. . 

The Mountain Man 

He came from Pennsylvania, 
Virginia, Kentucky, Tennes- 
see, and western New York. 
He lived in the Rocky Moun- 
tains and ate buffalo meat, 
deer, elk, antelope, and 
mountain goat. He made his 
own clothes or his Indian 
wife made them for him. He 
learned to set his own bro- 
ken bones, to cauterize his 
own wounds, and to treat 
himself for all manner of dis- 
ease and sickness. His only 
contact with "'civilization" 
came once a year at the an- 
nual "rendezvous" where he 
sold his furs and bought the 
few necessities the mountains 

could not provide. 

He was part of that reckless 
breed called the Mountain 
Man, the "free trapper," who 
lived what novelist Washing- 
ton Irving called a "wild 
Robin Hood kind of life" and 
who contributed as much as 
any other group to the ex- 
ploration of the West. "From 
the Mississippi to the mouth 
of the Colorado of the West, 
from the frozen regions of 
the North to the Gila in Mex- 
ico, the beaver hunter has 
set his traps in every creek 
and stream," wrote Capt. 
Frederick Ruxton of the Brit- 

ish Army, who knew and 
admired them. 

"'They had," wrote another 
who knew them well, "little 
fear of God and none at all of 
the devil." Half-civilized, 
half-savage, with unkempt 
hair hanging to their 
shoulders, their faces burned 
dark from life in the open 
and obscured beneath beards, 
these buckskin-clad moun- 
tain men brought the western 
fur trade to its height in the 
1820s and 1830s. And when 
the trade died in the 1840s, 
faded into the pages of 
history and legend. 

Left: "Louis-Mountain 
Trapper, "by Alfred Jacob 
Miller, 1837. In appearance 
there was little to distinguish 
the mountain man from the 

During the heyday of the 
free trapper, about ) 00, 000 
beaver skins were consumed 
annually in the production 
of hats for men. Beginning in 
the 1830s, hatters used more 
and more silk in the manu- 
facture of headgear and the 
demand for beaver fur de- 
clined, thus helping to save 
the animal from extinction. 

Hawken pistol one 

of several types favored bv 

the mountain men. 

The standard hand-made 
beaver trap, like the one 
shown here, remained essen- 
tially unchanged from 1750 
through the 1850s. 


ago preceded them in the person of Padre Sylvestre 
Valez de Escalante (who was looking for a route to the 
California missions), these were fresh discoveries for the 
Americans. They went by two routes. One took them 
from Taos through the San Luis Valley and along the 
Uncompagre and Gunnison rivers in western Colorado 
to the Green River as far as the Uinta Mountains. Another 
took them via the Chama, the San Juan, and the Dolores 
rivers to the Green, which teemed with beaver. One of 
these parties, led by a large rotund mountain man, Etienne 
Provost, circled around the Uinta Mountains and made 
its way down Weber River Canyon through the Wasatch 
Range and became some of the first Americans to see 
the Great Salt Lake. No Spaniard, not even Escalante, 
had stumbled upon it before American trappers coming 
up from the south and down from the north. The year 
of its discovery was 1825. 

Other bands of southwestern trapper-explorers struck 
off to the west. In 1824 Sylvester Pattie and his son James 
Ohio Pattie trapped the Gila River. Then in 1826 the 
Patties joined a band led by Ewing Young that traveled 
west along the Gila, then north to the rim of the Grand 
Canyon. Largely ignoring this marvel, which they were 
the first Americans to see, they headed northeast via the 
Little Colorado to the Grand River (now the Colorado), 
which they followed to its source in the Colorado Rockies. 
Pattie's account of the journey asserts that they then 
marched north via the parks of Colorado to the Bighorn 
and the Yellowstone, but it seems more likely that Ewing 
Young and his men reached only as far north as the 
Wind River Valley and the Sweetwater before they returned 
to Santa Fe. At any rate, theirs had been among the most 
incredible western journeys to date, for they had trav- 
ersed the West diagonally from the far southwest at the 
junction of the Gila and the Colorado to the northern 
ranges of the Rockies, linking up with the country 
Drouillard had explored in 1809-10. And along the way 
they had seen the Grand Canyon and the majestic coun- 
try of the Colorado River Plateau. 

The other achievement of the southwestern mountain 
men was the opening of a route from Santa Fe to the 
Pacific. In 1827 the Patties again followed the Gila, this 
time to the Colorado, the Colorado to its mouth in the 
Gulf of California, and then north across the desert. 
Guided by Yuma Indians, they reached Santa Catalina 
Mission in Baja California on March 3, 1828, nearly dead 
from thirst and starvation. Because they were in Spanish 


territory, they were taken to San Diego and clapped into 
prison, where Sylvester died, leaving James Ohio to tell 
the tale of their continental crossing. (Even at that they 
had been preceded in 1826 by Jedediah Smith and Richard 
Campbell who, independently, had crossed directly from 
the junction of the Gila and the Colorado to San Diego. 
But more about this later.) By 1829 a Mexican mule 
trader named Antonio Armijo had laid out still another 
version of "The Old Spanish Trail" to California, largely 
following Escalante's route north of the Grand Canyon 
and then coursing south to a site near present - day Las 
Vegas, Nev., and thence across the Mojave Desert, over 
Cajon Pass, and into Los Angeles. By 1832 at least three 
trails crossed the Great Southwest from Santa Fe to 

Far to the northwest, Canadian fur traders also began 
the exploration of the interior. In the continental United 
States, Canadian exploration really began with the 
Falstaffian-size figure, Donald McKenzie, courageous, 
daring, and one of the real heroes of western explora- 
tion. After his return from Astoria, McKenzie was rebuffed 
by John Jacob Astor, who was still angry over what he 
considered the perfidy of McKenzie and Astor's Colum- 
bia partners in turning Astoria over to the British. McKenzie 
therefore sought employment with the Northwest Com- 
pany. In 1816 he returned to Astoria, or Fort George as it 
was called under British occupation. At first, because of 
his physical appearance and his previous work for the 
opposition, he was not taken seriously; but in a year's 
time he revitalized all of the company's posts in the 
Northwest— primarily by constantly making friends with 
the Indians. Ever since his overland trek with the Astorians, 
however, McKenzie had been struck by the possibilities 
of the Snake River country. He saw that it led straight to 
the heart of the Rocky Mountains beaver country. There- 
fore, in 1818 he led the first of the Northwest Company's 
Snake River brigades to the junction of the Snake and 
the Columbia, where he built a trading fort. Then he set 
off across the Blue Mountains toward the Skamnaugh, 
or Boise, River in western Idaho. He continued east, 
trapping the tributaries of the Snake until he reached the 
country between the Snake and the Green rivers. He 
also trekked north to Jackson's Hole. 

The next year, 1819, in experimenting with supplying 
his field parties by water, McKenzie became the first 
man to traverse Hell's Canyon of the Snake River. He led 
his men as far east as Bear Lake in eastern Utah but he 


Canadian-born Peter Skene 
Ogden spent most of his adult 
life working for the Hudson 's 
Bay Company. He was one of 
the first to explore the Great 
Salt Lake region. He was also 
the discoverer of the Hum- 
boldt River in northern 
Nevada. Ogden. Utah, is 
named in his honor. 

never bothered to follow Bear River, which flows out of 
the lake into the Great Salt Lake; hence he never saw 
that great inland sea. 

After McKenzie left the Northwest in 1821, he had 
several successors but only one could match him: Peter 
Skene Ogden. The son of a Revolutionary War loyalist, 
Ogden was known as a troublemaker and hellion in the 
Northwest Company. Aside from attempting to burn up 
a companion for the sport of it, he had also assaulted a 
Hudson's Bay official, nearly killing him, and he imprisoned 
a whole company outpost in what amounted to a mutiny 
in the wilderness. In 1824 Ogden, banished from the 
center of most Hudson's Bay Company activity, led his 
men southeast into the Bear River country, where in 
December they first glimpsed, without realizing what 
they were seeing, the Great Salt Lake. In the spring of 
1825 Ogden and his Canadians made contact with Amer- 
ican mountain men at Mountain Green, just east of the 
Great Salt Lake. Here most of his men deserted to the 
Americans, and Ogden made his way back to Fort Nez 
Perce only with difficulty. 

Between 1825 and 1830 Ogden made five more trips 
into the western interior. He marched south into Cali- 
fornia via the Willamette Valley and opened up a new 
route to Mexican territory. He discovered the Humboldt 
River that flows across northern Nevada. (This became a 
vital link in the trail to California followed by American 
emigrants a decade later.) He explored the northern 
shores of the Great Salt Lake. And he made a remark- 
able journey south from the Humboldt Sinks in Nevada 
to the Colorado River near Needles, Calif., and thence to 
the mouth of the Colorado at the Gulf of California. He 
had crossed the Great Basin from north to south and, 
along with Jedediah Smith, was perhaps the only explorer 
of the era to traverse the entire West from north to south. 
By 1830 he knew more about the West beyond the 
Wasatch Mountains than any other man except Jedediah 
Smith. His knowledge was recorded on the latest French 
and British maps by A.H. Brue of Paris and Aaron 
Arrowsmith of London. This information thus became 
available to Americans and, ironically, helped to speed 
the demise of the British in the Northwest. 

After the Astorians' abortive adventures and the dar- 
ing forays of Lisa's parties, the major American inroads 
into the West were made by men of the Rocky Mountain 
Fur Company. In February 1822 Gen. William Ashley of 
St. Louis placed an advertisement in the St. Louis Gazette 


and Public Advertiser calling for "Enterprising Young 
Men ... to ascend the Missouri to its source, there to be 
employed for one, two or three years/ 1 Ashley's call was 
answered by some who became the greatest of all moun- 
tain men-explorers: Jedediah Smith, Thomas Fitzpatrick, 
David Jackson, William Sublette, James Clyman, Edward 
Rose, Hugh Glass, Jim Bridger. Ashley himself was an 
adventuresome, imaginative man who had great flair— and 
ambition. A Virginian of aristocratic mien, he aspired to 
great and sudden wealth to finance a political career. 
This he hoped to achieve with the help of his seasoned 
partner Andrew Henry (one of Lisas old engagees) and 
the "Enterprising Young Men." 

At first Ashley's expeditions came to disaster. One of 
his large keelboats sank in the Missouri with all the trade 
goods aboard. A second expedition was pinned down 
and all but destroyed by the fierce Arikara on a sandbar 
in the river opposite their villages. Clearly with the Indians 
all along the Missouri aroused, there was no chance of 
moving in the wake of Lewis and Clark by 1824, so 
Ashley determined to take his parties overland. Andrew 
Henry led one band to the Yellowstone, eventually 
establishing a post at the confluence of the Yellowstone 
and Powder rivers. From there he sent John H. Weber 
and a band that included Jim Bridger across into the 
Wind River Valley to winter with friendly Crow Indians. 

The other party was led by Jedediah Strong Smith, 
perhaps the greatest of all mountain men and one of 
Americas greatest explorers. Smith was only 24 years 
old, but he had been struck with exploring fever ever 
since a family friend had given him a copy of Biddle and 
Allen's account of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Smith 
was also a religious man, which perhaps accounts for his 
great courage. 

On that first expedition, Smith took his men out across 
the Dakota Badlands to a spur of the Rockies called the 
Black Hills (the present Laramie Mountains). At this 
point he was attacked by a grizzly bear who seized his 
whole head in its jaws and ripped off his scalp and one of 
his ears. His men killed the bear but they held out little 
hope for Smith. Under Smith's calm direction, however, 
they sewed his scalp and ear back on. Ten days later he 
was again ready to take to the trail, hardly a handsome 
specimen with a patched-on ear and a squinted, sewed-up 
eye, but nonetheless in one tough piece. 

Soon they made the Powder River, crossed over the 
Big Horn Mountains via Granite Pass, and descended 

Fj\iteT$r\sing Timing .Men. 

ri^MK subscriber wishes to engage ONE HON- 
JL l>KED MEN, to ascend (he rim Missouri 
to iu source, (here to be employed fur one, Uvn 
or tKreeyeaw. — For particulars, enquire of Mil- 
iar Andrew Henry, near the Lead Mines, in 'tie 
County of Washington, (who will ascend with, 
and coma and the party) or to the subscriber at 
St. Louis, 

Wm. U. Aslaley. 

February 13 9g tf 

Gen. William Ashley 's 1822 
newspaper appeal for "Enter- 
prising Young Men " to join 
him in his fur-trading venture 
to the sources of the Missouri 
River attracted a host of fa- 
mous trappers and mountain 
men. One of those who an- 
swered Ashley 5 call was Jim 
Bridger (above}, fur-trader, 
frontiersman, and army 


into the Big Horn Basin. Though it was a beautiful spot, 
they did not tarry there but joined Webefs band in a 
bleak winter encampment with the Crows in the Wind 
River Valley. There, despite the cold, they joined the 
Indians in hunting the buffalo that were seeking shelter 
in the mountains. Together they killed over a thousand. 

At the end of February, Smith and his men attempted 
to get out of the Wind River Valley via the upper end — the 
same Union Pass that had been used by the outward 
bound Astorians. Deep snows blocked their path, how- 
ever, and they returned to the Crow village. There the 
Crows, using a deerskin and piles of sand for mountains, 
showed them a route around the southeastern end of the 
Wind River Mountains. So, still in bitter cold, they followed 
the Wind River to the Sweetwater. Blizzards engulfed 
them. The wind blew so hard they could not light a 
campfire. Game was scarce, and they almost starved, 
but somehow they turned the flank of the Wind River 
Mountains. In so doing, they crossed over the Continen- 
tal Divide at the South Pass, rediscovering (for the first 
time westbound) that great emigrant gateway to the 
West. Ever afterwards South Pass was used by most 
overland parties. 

On March 19 Smith and his men reached the Green 
River, called by the Indians the Seedskeedee. There they 
split up into beaver trapping parties. Smith followed the 
Green as far south as the Uinta Mountains (on the other 
side of which Etienne Provost and his men, all unbe- 
knownst, were struggling toward the Wasatch Moun- 
tains and Great Salt Lake). That same season, Smith and 
his men made contact with a brigade of Northwest Com- 
pany men under Alexander Ross on the Blackfoot Fork 
of the Snake. 

Meanwhile, Weber and his men had followed Smith's 
trail out of the Wind River Valley and across South Pass 
to the Green River. From there they trekked north to 
Bear Lake and the Bear River. In the early spring of 1825 
one of their number, Jim Bridger, on a bet sailed down 
Bear River in a bull boat and came out in the Great Salt 
Lake. He became its official discoverer. According to a 
member of the party, Robert Campbell, "He went to its 
margin and tasted the water, and on his return reported 
his discovery. The fact of the water being salt induced 
the belief that it was an arm of the Pacific Ocean . . ." 

The year 1825 also saw mountain men-explorers from 
every corner of the West come together for a rendezvous 
on a fork of the Green River. They had criss-crossed the 


entire West and thus could exchange information as well 
as tall tales, trade goods, beaver pelts, and toasts in rotgut 
traders whiskey. The rendezvous, established by Ashley 
as a way of supplying his trappers, became an annual 
event after 1825. 

In 1826 Jedediah Smith became Ashley's field leader, 
and in the same year conducted one of the great explor- 
ing expeditions in the annals of the West. On August 22, 
Smith set out from the Great Salt Lake "for the purpose 
of exploring the country S.W. which was entirely unknown 
to me, and of which I could collect no satisfactory 
information from the Indians who inhabit this country 
on its N.E. borders." Smith's route took him southwest 
past the Utah Lake and the Sevier River, then down 
along what became the "Mormon Corridor" to the Vir- 
gin River (which he called Adams River) and through the 
wonders of present-day Zion National Park. When he 
reached the Colorado River far below the Grand Can- 
yon, Smith instantly recognized it as the same Green 
River which he had left at last years rendezvous. He took 
his men across the Colorado and into the villages of the 
grass-skirted Mohave Indians. From them he learned of 
an ancient Indian trading trail across the Mojave Desert. 
After his men had rested, Smith led them along this trail 
and into the Mexican settlement at San Gabriel (near 
Los Angeles). His was the first American party to cross 
the Southwest into California. 

After remaining for nearly 2 months in southern Cali- 
fornia, partly because of the hostility of the Mexican 
authorities, the intrepid Smith led his men north to the 
American River. Here they tried to cross over the Sierra 
to the east but were thwarted by heavy snows. Smith, 
however, was determined to explore the country between 
California and the Great Salt Lake in search of a short 
cut to the annual rendezvous. Like Ashley and others 
before him, he believed that there was a Rio Buenaventura 
and he hoped to find it. So, taking only two men with 
him, Smith went up the Stanislaus River into the tower- 
ing Sierra. After eight grueling days they made their way 
over the mountains via Ebbetts Pass. Now came the most 
difficult part of the trek, across the arid wastes of the 
Great Basin. Before them stretched a thousand miles of 
alkalai desert, with little game, no friendly Indians to 
guide them, and no landmarks. Following a generally 
northeast route that parallels present -day Nevada high- 
way 6 they passed by the future sites of Ham Springs and 
Ely, Nev. Then they turned north, but still the endless 

The only known authenti- 
cated po rtra it of Jededia h 
Strong Smith shows him in- 
congruously dressed in the 
garb of an Eastern dandy. He 
led the first Americans over- 
land into California in 1826. 


The Rendezvous 

The "big doin's" in the life of 
the mountain man was the 
"rendezvous," a great annual 
get-together of traders, trap- 
pers, and Indians for pur- 
poses of trade and revelry. 
Initiated in 1825 by William 
Ashley, St. Louis business- 
man and founder of the 
Rocky Mountain Fur Com- 
pany, these great summer 
"fairs" at designated meeting 
places in the central Rockies, 
usually on a branch of the 
Green River, gave trappers 
the opportunity to trade their 
winter's harvest of beaver 
and other skins for traps, 
guns, ammunition, knives, to- 

bacco, and liquor provided 
by St. Louis merchants or 
fur-company representatives. 

Detailed contemporary de- 
scriptions of these rendez- 
vous are few. One of the best 
is provided by Alfred Jacob 
Miller, the only artist to 
document these gatherings, 
in notes describing his paint- 
ing of the 1837 rendezvous 
which appears here: 

"This [the rendezvous near 
Green River, Oregon] was 
our ultima thule, our final 
destination. Here we rested 
for a month under the 

shadows of the great spurs 
of Wind River Mountains, 
encamping among 3000 
Snake and other Indians who 
had all assembled at this 
place ... to trade buffalo 
robes and peltries for dry 
goods, ammunition, tobacco, 
etc. It truly was an imposing 
sight. The white lodges of 
the Indians stretching out in 
vast perspective, the busy 
throng of savages on spirited 
horses moving in all direc- 
tions, some of them dressed 
in barbaric magnificence. 

"The first day is given up by 
established custom to a 

species of Roman saturnalia. 
King alcohol is in great de- 
mand and attainable, al- 
though selling at that time 
here at $64 per gallon. It sets 
the poor Indian frantic, 
sometimes causing him to 
run amuck, when he is over- 
powered, knocked down and 
secured from mischief. Gam- 
bling, ball-playing, racing and 
other amusements are in the 

"On the second and succeed- 
ing days all this is changed. 
The American Fur Compa- 
ny's great tent is elevated and 
trading goes briskly forward. 

Here the trapper gets his out- 
fit and gangs of them depart 
under a 'bourgeois' for the 
beaver streams to trap that 
valuable animal. Here we ' 
saw all the notabilities, the 
great leaders, both Indian 
and pale-faces. . . . 

"From this place also we 
made excursions to the 
charming lakes that form a 
chain through the upper por- 
tions of the mountains for 
the purpose of making 
sketches of the scenery." 

The rendezvous system 
brought enormous profits to 

the traders who brought the 
merchandise to the gather- 
ings. Ashley, for instance, 
took home with him in 1825 
furs worth nearly $50,000; 
the next year he took enough 
to allow him to retire from 
the fur-trade and re-enter St. 
Louis politics. The system 
lasted until 1840. By then the 
demand for beaver pelts had 
declined so drastically that 
both the trade and the era of 
the mountain man were on 
the edge of extinction. 


desert lay ahead. On June 25 one of the men gave out and 
had to be left behind. Smith and his remaining partner 
continued on. Three miles ahead they came to an iso- 
lated mountain and water. Smith rushed back to rescue 
his marooned comrade, then they all pushed on until, on 
June 27, they beheld the Great Salt Lake. Smith and his 
two companions had done what no white man, and 
probably no Indian, had ever done before. They had 
crossed over the towering Sierra and traversed the Great 
Basin from west to east. It should have been clear from 
their trek that no Rio Buenaventura or anything like it 
existed. Smith was laconic about the whole trip: "My 
arrival caused a considerable bustle in camp, for myself 
and party had been given up as lost." 

As soon as he could, Smith and another band of 
trappers set out over the southwest corridor route to join 
the men he had left in California. This time, however, 
disaster dogged his footsteps. The Mohaves, who had 
been turned into enemies by a fight with another party of 
trappers, massacred 10 of his men. Smith and the rest 
were driven into the desert and only with the greatest 
difficulty reached California. There the authorities were 
distinctly hostile, and Smith went by ship to San Francisco 
Bay where he rejoined his men out of reach of Spanish 
soldiers. The trappers then turned north towards Ore- 
gon, trapping along the way and enjoying great success. 
But on the Umpqua River, the entire party was wiped 
out except for three men and Jedediah Smith himself, 
who was away from camp on a scouting expedition. 
Eventually they made their way north via the Willamette 
Valley to the Hudson's Bay Company post at Fort 
Vancouver, where they were well received. 

After recuperating at Fort Vancouver, Smith went up 
the Columbia to the Hudson's Bay post at Fort Colvile 
near Kettle Falls. While with the British, Smith noted the 
rich possibilities for American settlement in the Willamette 
and Columbia river valleys. Upon his return he drafted a 
letter to the Secretary of War to this effect, signed by his 
partners David Jackson and William Sublette. This letter 
was published by Congress and gained national promi- 
nence. It helped to arouse the enthusiasm of Americans 
for emigration to Oregon. 

Meanwhile, Smith was not through exploring. From 
Fort Colvile he journeyed all the way to the Canadian 
border. Then, joining his partner David Jackson at Flat- 
head Lake, he moved south down the Bitterroot Valley 
into Pierre's Hole for the summer rendezvous. The fol- 


lowing season he and his men passed through the 
Yellowstone National Park area and on to the Big Horn 
Basin. From there they crossed over into the Wind River 
Valley and then swung north to a winter encampment on 
the Powder River just east of the Big Horn Mountains. 
The following year (1830) Smith continued to explore 
the Upper Missouri region. Afterwards he went downriver 
and seemingly into retirement. But his curiosity would 
not let him rest. He had never traversed the Santa Fe 
Trail. In 1831 , while bound for Santa Fe, he was killed by 
Comanches on the Cimarron River. 

Without question Jedediah Smith was one of Americas 
greatest explorers. He had traversed the West from the 
Upper Missouri to the deserts of the far Southwest. He 
knew the heart of the Rockies, the Great Plains, Califor- 
nia and Oregon, the Columbia River, and the Great 
Basin (which he was the first white man to cross). He had 
pioneered in the rediscovery of the central route across 
the Rockies via South Pass, and he had personally informed 
the U.S. Government about the rich possibilities for 
settlement in Oregon and California. He even left behind 
a map, the so-called Fremont-Gibbs-Smith map. On a 
Fremont map of 1845, Dr. George Gibbs of Oregon, 
apparently using a manuscript map given him by Smith, 
sketched in all of Smith's vast geographical knowledge, 
including notes made by Smith. Moreover, Smith's knowl- 
edge in less detailed form even reached the aging Albert 
Gallatin in time for inclusion in his "Map of the Indian 
Tribes of North America, " published by the American 
Antiquarian Society in 1836. Gallatin's ethnographic map, 
reinforced by Smith's data, became the standard such 
map of the country until virtually the Civil War. 

There were, of course, many other mountain men- 
explorers. Some were important because they were trail- 
blazers for the emigrants who moved West starting in 
1832. One of these trailblazers was Joseph Reddeford 
Walker, who had exploring in his blood and came to 
know more of the West than any man save Jedediah 
Smith and Peter Skene Ogden. A tall, handsome fellow, 
Walker was a Tennessean who gravitated to the Mis- 
souri frontier by the time he was in his early twenties. By 
1822 he had already made two trips to Santa Fe and 
subsequently aided an official U.S. Government survey 
party in laying out the Santa Fe Trail in 1826. He also 
helped found the outfitting center for the southwestern 
expeditions, Independence, Mo., and served as the sher- 
iff of that rough, brawling town. His exploring days 



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began in 1831 when he met Capt. Benjamin Louis Eulalie 
De Bonneville at Fort Gibson in Oklahoma. Bonneville 
was ostensibly on leave from the U.S. Army to conduct a 
fur-trading expedition to the Rocky Mountains. It seems 
clear, however, that he was really reconnoitering the 
central Rockies for the government and searching for a 
route to California. Though he proved to be a poor fur 
trader, Bonneville, thanks to Walker s help, accomplished 
both objectives admirably. 

In the spring of 1832, with Walker as his field lieuten- 
ant, Bonneville set out from Fort Osage for the moun- 
tains. He followed the now familiar path via the Platte, 
the Sweetwater, and South Pass to the Green River. 
Eventually he built a fur trading post on Ham's Fork of 
the Green, a very unlikely spot which he eventually 
abandoned for the Salmon River further north. At the 
Green River rendezvous of 1833 Bonneville organized a 
party under Walker to march around the north end of 
Great Salt Lake and cross westward to the Pacific. Walker 
and his men intentionally struck out for California through 
what was still Mexican territory as unofficial agents of 
the U.S. Government. They coursed westward from the 
Great Salt Lake across great stretches of desert to Humboldt 
River, which they followed southwestward to the Humboldt 
sinks at the base of the Sierra. Here, in a starving condi- 
tion, they were forced to fight a pitched battle with 
Indians. Almost in desperation they struck out into the 
Sierra via a southern branch of what is now the East 
Walker River. They soon found themselves crossing the 
mountains over a kind of pass between the watersheds of 
the Merced and Tuolumne rivers. In the course of their 
struggles they became the first white men to view the 
misty falls and breathtaking chasms of the Yosemite. 
They also came upon the "Big Trees" (Sequoia) at the 
foot of Yosemite as they descended into California. 

On Walker's return journey he traveled south in Cali- 
fornia. Aided by Indian guides, he located a pass around 
the southern end of the Sierra that was practical for 
wagons and emigrants. (This was Walkers Pass, for a 
long time the chief emigrant gateway into California.) 
Walker himself clearly realized what he had done and 
subsequently led wagon trains back over the route he 
had laid out. Maps based on Walkers work were published 
in Washington Irvings two classic works on the West, 
Astoiia (1836) and The Adventures of Captain Bonneville 

For the rest of his long life ( 1798-1876) Walker trekked 

Capt. Benjamin Louis Eulalie 
de Bonneville (top) was not 
the dashing western cavalier 
that Washington Irving made 
him out to he. hut his explo- 
rations in con/unction with 
veteran Tennessee trapper 
Joseph Reddeford Walker 
I above) furthered the cause 
of national expansion. Left: 
Yosemite Tails, discovered 
by Bonneville and Walker in 
1833. as photographed by 
Eadweard Muv 'bridge in 



all over the West, making many trips back and forth to 
California. He also guided wagon trains and herded 
horses along the Old Spanish Trail from New Mexico to 
California. He twice guided Fremont and was present at 
the beginning of the Bear Flag Revolt that helped touch 
off the Mexican War in California. His dream, however, 
was to explore the Green River down its course through 
the Uintas and the high plateaus of Utah. He was never 
able to accomplish this feat, which 25 years later brought 
immortality to Maj. John Wesley Powell. Instead, in the 
1860s, after an extraordinary series of adventures in 
central Arizona, Walker found gold. The town of Prescott 
grew on the site of his gold strike, and became the 
territorial capital of Arizona. Walker's career as explor- 
er, army scout, horse trader, and rancher spanned the 
age from the mountain man to the prospector, and 
encompassed most of the activities of the frontier West. 
Above all, however, he was a trailblazer. 

In a sense, the "trailblazer" title fits all of that coura- 
geous band of men who entered the Rockies in the first 
decades of the 19th century. They succeeded so well at 
opening up the country that by 1850 their day was at an 
end. As parties of would-be farmers, miners, railroaders, 
and storekeepers roamed along the trails blazed by the 
mountain men, the life of the solitary trapper became 
less and less feasible. There were other more exciting 
tasks to turn to, such as army scout, Indian agent, wagon 
train boss, rancher, and gold seeker. And Walker's career 
along with those of a notable collection of other fur 
hunters— Jim Bridger, Kit Carson and Tom Fitzpatrick 
to name but a few— illustrates that they did just that. But 
before the mountain man's era was over he had made an 
unforgettable place for himself in the annals of world 

In Search of Exotic America: 
European Explorers in the West 

The adventures of the mountain men and the explora- 
tion of the plains and Rockies attracted world-wide atten- 
tion. To Europeans, the American West was a wild and 
exotic country full of strange animals and strange peo- 
ple. Though mountain men and U.S. Government expe- 
ditions were exploring the region in practical terms, 
Europeans wished to fit it into a romantic horizon in the 
manner of the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt, 
who in South America had explored the Amazon and 
the Orinoco, penetrated the heart of the Andes and 

Prussian Prince Alexander- 
Philip Maximilian (left 
center) at Fort Clark on the 
Missouri during the winter 
of 1833-34. From a painting 
by the Prince 's artist, Karl 
Bodmer, who also appears in 
the picture wearing high hat 
and striped trousers. 


John James Audubon, from a 
pencil sketch he drew of him- 
self at Green Bank, England, 
September 1826. An exhibi- 
tion of his bird drawings had 
recently opened at the Royal 
Institution of Liverpool and 
he was, he noted on the 
sketch, "Almost Happy!!" 

climbed Mount Chimborazo, then believed to be the 
highest mountain in the world. And so in the middle of 
the 19th century dozens of European explorers came to 
see the American West with their own eyes, prepared to 
be dazzled with its wonders. Theirs was a different kind 
of exploration and theirs were different discoveries. 

One of the first of these adventurers was Thomas 
Nuttall, an eccentric English botanist who traveled far up 
the Missouri with one of Manuel Lisa's expeditions. He 
made abundant scientific collections, much to the amuse- 
ment of his fellow voyageurs and mountain men. NuttalTs 
efforts were incorporated into a major work, Genera of 
North American Plants (1818). He also explored the 
Arkansas Territory and traveled to Oregon with Nathaniel 
Wyeth, a Boston ice-dealer turned fur trader, who blazed 
the final emigrant trail to the Northwest. When he was 
not out in the West, Nuttall taught botany at Harvard, 
and became famous for three things: his garden of exotic 
western plants, his stories of western adventure, and his 
curious attic office accessible only by a rope ladder that 
he frequently drew up after himself so as not to be 
disturbed. Nuttall was only the first of a number of 
foreign-born explorer-naturalists who traveled up the 
Missouri, the most famous of whom was John James 
Audubon who made the trip from St. Louis to Fort 
Union in 1843. By then the river trip was rather tame, but 
the intrepid Audubon, inspired by a lavish reception 
given him in St. Louis, seemed to regain his youth and 
made the whole expedition seem an adventure as he 
collected specimens for his Viviparous Quadrupeds of 
North America. 

The most widely traveled European explorer was 
Frederick Paul Wilhelm, Duke of Wurttemberg. Edu- 
cated at the Stuttgart Gymnasium, Duke Paul was inspired 
by the work of Humboldt and wished to follow in his 
footsteps. By 1822 when he left on his first trip to America 
the duke was already an experienced geographer and 
naturalist, having traveled in the Near East, North Africa, 
and Russia. Moreover, he was a member of the most 
prestigious European scientific societies and knew the 
most recent works on the American West: before leav- 
ing on his voyage he had carefully studied the first two 
volumes of Dr. Edwin James's report on Maj. Stephen 
H. Long's expedition of 1819-21. 

In all, the duke made seven excursions into the United 
States between 1822 and the time of his death in 1860. 
Five of these trips were expeditions into the West. The 


Audubon s insatiable curios- 
ity about wildlife resulted in 
hundreds of paintings of birds 
and animals which stand 
today as monuments to his 
great and unique talent. 
These pictures, taken from 
Audubon 's The Birds of 
America and The Quad- 
rupeds of North America, 
represent a sampling of the 
wildlife he encountered and 
painted on his western trav- 
els. Top to bottom: Ruffed 
Grouse. Columbian Black- 
Tailed Deer, and American 



Harvard botanist Thomas 
Nuttali The plant specimens 
he collected on trips along 
the Missouri, Arkansas, Red, 
and Columbia rivers formed 
the basis for the Harvard Bo- 
tanical Gardens. 

first took him a thousand miles up the Missouri before 
being turned back by fur trade agent Joshua Pilcher, who 
brought news of the Arikara battle with General Ashley's 
mountain men. The only published account of the Duke's 
travels— that of this first 1822 expedition— indicates that 
he was a careful observer of nature and a great admirer 
of the Indians. He accumulated extensive collections in 
natural history and Indian artifacts. 

On his second trip to the West, in 1829, the duke again 
journeyed far up the Missouri and lived among the 
Sioux, the Blackfeet, and the Assiniboin. He reached the 
Yellowstone and the Three Forks of the Missouri and 
managed to get himself rescued from the Blackfeet by 
the Sioux Indians. One of these Sioux he brought back to 
his castle in Germany, hoping to "civilize" him. Instead, 
during a sporting contest at arms, the Sioux attempted to 
brain him with a tomahawk. The Indian was soon after- 
wards returned to his native hunting grounds. Pompey, 
the son of Sacagawea of the Lewis and Clark expedition, 
whom he also took to Europe with him, had a much 
happier experience. 

For most of the 1830s and 40s the duke turned his 
attention to Egypt, the Upper Nile, and other parts of the 
world. But in 1849 he returned to the West for an extended 
trip. He visited Texas, especially the settlements at New 
Braunfels, then moved on to Sutter's Mill and the gold 
rush sites in California, and, of course, the Rockies. He 
almost lost his life on the wintry plains of Kansas after 
being captured by hostile Indians, but he and his artist 
companion, Heinrich Bauldwin Mollhausen, ultimately 
were rescued by some friendly Otoes. The duke's 1849 
excursion lasted until July 1856, during which he visited 
most of South America as well. His last trip to the West 
was in 1857 on the way around the world via Australia, 
the South Pacific, China, and the Middle East. By the 
time the duke returned to his castle at Bad Mergentheim, 
he was penniless. He had, however, assembled one of the 
finest ethnography and natural history collections in the 
world, of which his specimens from the American West 
formed a major part. Upon the duke's death shortly after 
his return, his collections had to be sold to pay his debts. 
Only the castle and a few paintings remain at Bad 
Mergentheim to memorialize his Humboldtean dream 
of a cosmos of knowledge. 

The duke's artist, Heinrich Mollhausen, went on to a 
valuable career of his own. In 1853 he accompanied Lt. 
Amiel Weeks Whipple's army expedition in search of a 


railroad route to the Pacific. Then in 1857 he accompa- 
nied Lt. Joseph Christmas Ives's expedition up the Colo- 
rado and into the Grand Canyon. He was among the first 
white men ever to set foot on the floor of Grand Canyon 
and supplied strange, surrealistic drawings for both expe- 
dition reports. He also published his own accounts of the 
trips. Beyond that, he became one of the most famous 
and prolific writers in 19th-century Germany. Most of 
his 45 novels and 80 short stories deal in authentic terms 
with the American West. Though his works are largely 
unread today, "der alte Trapper," as he was known in 
Germany, was a famous literary figure, and through his 
paintings and his writings helped to make the Far West 
of the plains and Rockies real frontiers to would-be 
German immigrants. 

At least one other German explorer of the early West 
must be recognized. In 1833, Prince Maximilian of Wied 
Neuwied, not to be outdone by Duke Paul, traveled far 
up the Missouri to Fort McKenzie in the heart of the 
Blackfeet country. He arrived just in time to witness a 
pitched battle between the fierce Blackfeet and the 
Assiniboin just outside the stockaded walls of the fort. 
Prince Maximilian, too, was a renowned and careful 
scientist. His collections, which have survived, indicate 
this. But he is perhaps best known for the spectacular 
work of his artist, Karl Bodmer, whose drawings of 
Indian life— particularly the soon-to-be-extinct Mandans 
—are perhaps the best ethnographic drawings ever done 
in America. His portraits of Indians, such as "The Big 
Soldier" in full regalia, are rivaled only by the drawings of 
George Catlin. While the prince was collecting scientific 
specimens and mountain men and soldiers were seeking 
paths through the West, men like Bodmer and Catlin 
were discovering the fast vanishing world of the Indian. 

The British were not to be outdone. Sir George Gore 
hunted the Yellowstone. Capt. Frederick Ruxton emerged 
from Mexico and tramped all over the West with the 
mountain men. His classic work, Life in the Far West 
(1849), told the story of real trappers under the fictional- 
ized names of Killbuck and La Bonte in such a way as to 
rival Washington Irving's Astoria and Bonneville for 
both English and American readers. 

By far the most flamboyant European explorer of the 
American West was a Scottish baronet, Sir William 
Drummond Stewart of Murthly Castle, which stood on 
the Tay between Shakespeare's Birnam Wood and Dun- 
sinane Peak. Because he was the second son of his family 

Two specimens from Nut- 
tail's collections: Flowering 
Dogwood I top), found near 
the Columbia River, and 
Crab Apple. From F. A. 
Michaux's North American 


The Wurttemberg Collection 

German naturalist Frederick 
Paul Wilhelm, Duke of 
Wurttemberg, was an invet- 
erate traveler. A member of 
the Royal Leopold Academy 
of Vienna, the Societe Im- 
periale Zoologique d'Accli- 
mation of Paris, the Society 
of Natural Science of Athens, 
and the academies of London 
and Petersburg, he had trav- 
eled widely in the Near East, 
Algeria, Russia, and the 
Caribbean before sailing for 
America in 1822. 

From 1822 to 1824 Duke Paul 
journeyed up the Mississippi 
and its tributaries, including 

the Red River, the Yazoo, 
and the Ohio. From St. Louis 
he traveled west to the Platte 
and the Kansas rivers, then 
up the Missouri into fur-trade 
country. During his travels he 
gathered an extensive collec- 
tion of plants, animals, and 
Indian artifacts, which he 
carefully identified and class- 
ified and took with him back 
to Germany. Additional spec- 
imens were added to the col- 
lection when he returned to 
the West in 1821-31, 1849-56, 
and 1857-58. 

At the time of his death, Duke 
Paul had seen more of the 

American West than any 
other foreign traveler and 
had amassed the largest pri- 
vate collection of Western ar- 
tifacts and natural history in 
the world. Some of the items 
from the collection are shown 

Potawatamie headdress 


Passenger pigeon 

Black hawk 


Top: Sir William Drummond 
Stewart's caravan enroute 
to the Rocky Mountains in 
1837. From a water color by 
Alfred Jacob Miller, who 
accompanied Stewart and 
whose field sketches pro vide 
a remarkable record of early 
wagon-train travel across the 
plains. Center: Fort Union 
Trading Post on the Upper 
Missouri. From a painting 
by Karl Bodmer. who visited 
the recently completed fort 
with his patron. Prince Maxi- 
milian, in 1833. Bottom: View 
of the interior of Fort Wil- 
liam, the first Fort Laramie, 
in 1837 by Alfred Jacob Mil- 
ler, whose paintings are the 
only known views of this im- 
portant fur post on the Lara- 
mie River. For an exterior 
view of the fort, see page 102. 


line, Stewart could look forward to no great inheritance, 
and so he became a soldier, wanderer, and sportsman. 
He served with Wellington in the Peninsula Campaign 
and at Waterloo. In 1833, after an unfortunate marriage 
to a servant girl, he came to America where he intended 
to spend the rest of his life hunting and roaming in the 
wild West with the mountain men. In all he spent seven 
seasons in the West and saw most of its wonders. His first 
trip out (over what was to become the Oregon Trail) was 
to the Green River rendezvous in the company of William 
Sublette. From the beginning Stewart loved every moment 
of it— the sky high mountains, the gaudily painted Indians, 
the nubile squaws, the trading, the tall tales, the legend- 
ary trappers, and, most of all, the thrilling chase over the 
rolling prairie on horseback after the buffalo. From that 
first moment nothing in the world could match the wild 
free life out on the Green River. Stewart had discovered 
a landscape and a lifestyle. 

From 1833 to 1838, Stewart traveled north into the Big 
Horn and Yellowstone River country; trekked south 
along the front range of the Rockies to spend a winter of 
revelry in Taos; traversed the beautiful interior parks of 
Colorado and made his way over the Oregon Trail to 
Fort Vancouver; spent a season high atop the Wind 
River Mountains; and gazed awestruck at the sublime 
beauty of Jackson's Hole. Finally, on one last expedition 
in 1843, he stood amid the wonders of the Yellowstone 
geyser basins. He explored and experienced the Rocky 
Mountain West during a period of momentous transi- 
tion. Despite the high spirits at the several annual ren- 
dezvous he attended he could see that the fur trade was 
in decline. (In fact, he made an American fortune by 
speculating in New Orleans cotton himself.) He also saw 
the gradual growth of traffic on the Oregon Trail, begin- 
ning with missionaries like Jason Lee, Marcus Whitman, 
and Henry Spaulding, continuing with entrepreneurs 
like Nathaniel Wyeth, and culminating with a horde of 
emigrants who went west in the 1840s. 

By 1836, wanting to record some of his wilderness 
experiences on paper, he began writing two novels— 
Altowan and Edward Warren— which were thinly dis- 
guised accounts of his romantic adventures with the 
mountain men and Indian girls. He also discovered in 
New Orleans a young Baltimore painter, Alfred Jacob 
Miller. Miller went west with Stewart in 1837 and cap- 
tured in countless sketches, watercolors, and washes the 
rich sights of Rocky Mountain life. He recorded wild 


hunts, escapes from Indians, trappers at work and at 
leisure. He caught on canvas the rendezvous in all its 
gaudy splendor, and he stood like some early Gauguin 
recording naked Indian girls at bath in a cool mountain 
stream. The butchering of the buffalo, the yell of triumph, 
the sight of panic and stampede, all of these he painted 
with a romantic freshness that somehow represented 
discovery as it impressed itself upon the imagination of 
his patron, Sir William Drummond Stewart. It was a kind 
of exploration that neither Miller nor Stewart would ever 
forget— even after Sir William returned to Murthly Cas- 
tle to assume the duties of a baronetcy upon the death of 
his brother. Few men saw and remembered more of the 
West than Stewart, and none, save Bodmer, had recorded 
its swirling, pristine life so well as Alfred Jacob Miller. 

In this fanciful mid- 1 9th cen- 
tury engraving, John C. 
Fremont plants the American 
flag atop what he believed 
to be the highest peak in the 
Rockies. As progenitor and 
romantic symbol of profes- 
sional exploration of the 
West during the 1 9th century, 
Fremont became the rallying 
point for supporters of the 
doctrine of Manifest Destinv. 

By Land and By Sea: 

Military Exploration of the Great West 

The West had clearly changed by the time Stewart made 
his last hunt in 1843. For one thing, a new kind of 
explorer had appeared. This was the military explorer of 
the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers. Officially 
formed in 1838, the Topographical Corps was composed 
largely of the best of the West Point graduates who were 
specially trained in scientific skills, engineering, map- 
making and topographical drawing. Though they worked 
on coastal fortifications, river surveys, and the mapping 
of the Great Lakes, in the 1840s and 50s they turned their 
attention to the West and became its dominant explor- 
ers. Their exemplar, however, was not a West Point 
graduate. He was John C. Fremont, a product of the U.S. 
Coast Survey, a protege of Jean N. Nicollet and Ferdinand 
Hassler of that bureau, and the son-in-law of Thomas 
Hart Benton, the powerful expansionist senator from 
Missouri. In 1842 Lieutenant Fremont of the U.S. Corps 
of Topographical Engineers led an expedition to South 
Pass, the Green River, and the Wind River range to map 
the whole area scientifically. And though, like the Scottish 
baronet, Fremont was enough of a romantic to climb 
what he thought was the highest peak in the Wind Rivers 
and unfurl the eagle flag of Manifest Destiny, he was also 
reducing exploration (and public relations) to a science. 
For the next two decades Fremont and others like him 
from the Corps of Topographical Engineers brought the 
hand of government and the skills of science to the 
exploration of the West. In so doing, they were agents of 





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Wilkes and Fremont Expeditions 













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Jr miss. 

Capt. Charles Wilkes, leader 
of the 1838-42 United States 
Exploring Expedition to Ant- 
arctica, the islands of the 
Pacific, and America 's north- 
west coast. The Royal Geo- 
graphical Society of London 
later honored him for his 
voyages, hut the U.S. Navy 
court-martialed him for mis- 
treating his crew. 

Manifest Destiny and servants of a rapidly-growing America 
whose citizens echoed the cry, "Westward the course of 
empire takes its way." 

Going West in the early 1840s usually meant going to 
Oregon, which had become a focus of American aspira- 
tions. Fremont's mission in 1842 was to map the South 
Pass, a key point on the Oregon Trail. But even as he was 
carrying out that assignment, another expedition had 
returned to Washington with a report on the Oregon 
country. Capt. Charles Wilkes of the United States Explor- 
ing Expedition, a naval enterprise, had made a thorough 
investigation of the Oregon country as part of his great 
global exploring expedition of the Pacific Ocean. What 
he had to say about Oregon was important, but he was 
having trouble getting Congress's attention because of a 
flurry of courts-martial charges preferred against him 
upon his return from his world-circling voyage. 

Wilkes had departed from Hampton Roads, Va., on 
August 18, 1838, as commander of a flotilla of six ships 
bound for the Pacific Ocean. His expedition represented 
a concession to the eastern seaboard maritime interests 
who were concerned about the whaling and sealing 
industry and trade with the nations and peoples of the 
western Pacific. In one of the epic events of 19th-century 
exploration, Wilkes took his fleet through the South 
Atlantic, and around Cape Horn to Australia and the 
South Pacific islands. Turning south, he coasted the icy 
shores of the Antarctic for 1,500 miles (in the process 
proving that the Antarctic was a continent), then sailed 
north via the Pacific islands to the Oregon coast. Here he 
divided his forces. Wilkes led one group of ships in an 
exploration of Vancouver Island, the Straits of Juan de 
Fuca, and Puget Sound. He also examined Gray 's Harbour 
at the base of the Olympic Peninsula while searching for 
a viable port on the Pacific. The captain and his men 
found the beautiful coastline every bit as exotic as the 
South Pacific. It was a land of furcaped Indians who 
danced in hideous masks, sailed their carved 50-foot- 
long war canoes far out into the ocean, and studded their 
villages with mysterious totem poles that harkened back 
in some ways to the pre-Christian villages of the barbari- 
ans in the Danube Valley. Wilkes's scientists and ethnog- 
raphers found the Northwest Coast a rich and exotic 
region for study. 

The captain, however, was primarily interested in 
global policy and safe harbors on the Pacific shores, 
which is why he carefully searched the entire coast north 


Illustrations from Wilkes ' 
Narrative of the United States 
Exploring Expedition, 1838- 
42: Top: U.S. Sloop Vincen- 
nes, at anchor in Disappoint- 
ment Bay. Antarctica, served 
as Wilkes' flagship through- 
out his voyages. Center: 
Members of the expedition 
measure one of the trees in 
the "primeval forest of pines" 
behind Astoria on the Col- 
umbia River. The tree 's girth 
exceeded 39 feet. Bottom: 
Astoria, showing the encamp- 
ment of'Capt. W. L. Hudson 's 
crew following the wreck of 
his flagship Peacock at the 
mouth of the Columbia in 
July 1841. 

- /&pakJ&%Z.<e^&*.-»*-76zi 


of the Columbia. He also sent exploring parties inland: 
one from Puget Sound south to the Columbia; one up 
the Columbia past the Dalles, or rapids, to the Hudson's 
Bay post at Fort Colvile near the junction of the Snake 
and the Columbia; and one south through the Willamette 
Valley to California's San Francisco Bay. The latter 
expedition determined that there were no good harbors 
south of the Columbia and no large rivers flowing from 
the interior. 

Meanwhile, Capt. William L. Hudson, in charge of the 
other half of Wilkes's fleet, came to grief off the mouth of 
the Columbia. He lost his flagship Peacock to the treach- 
erous currents and sand bars at the mouth of the river. It 
thus became clear to both Hudson and Wilkes that the 
Columbia estuary was not a safe harbor. The only such 
harbors lay far north of the Columbia in or around Puget 
Sound. Thus Wilkes thought American diplomatic efforts 
should be aimed at securing territory at least that far 
north. But he returned home under such a cloud of 
acrimony over the methods he used to discipline his 
seamen that Congress authorized only 100 copies of his 
report to be published, and a lengthy court debate ensued 
as to whether Wilkes and Hudson were covering up for 
bad seamanship when they described the mouth of the 
Columbia as an unsuitable port. Neither Presidents John 
Tyler nor James Polk paid much attention to the valu- 
able information he gave them. Perhaps the outstanding 
positive result of his expedition was that his extensive 
scientific collections eventually came to form the nucleus 
of the Smithsonian Institution after it was created in 

Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri was not 
unmindful of Wilkes's information, however, and on 
what he always insisted was his own initiative, he sent his 
son-in-law, Lt. John C. Fremont, on a "secret" mission to 
Oregon in 1843. When Fremont set out from Independ- 
ence, Mo., in 1843, he was part of a cavalcade of emi- 
grants heading west over the Oregon Trail. Joseph B. 
Chiles's party had departed for California ahead of him, 
as had Elijah White's caravan bound for Oregon. Sir 
William Drummond Stewart headed a large entourage 
bound for one last hunt on the Green River, while 
William Gilpin was traveling across the mountains with 
visions of a transcontinental railroad dancing in his head. 
Fremont's party was guided by the veteran mountain 
man Tom "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick; he was soon joined 
by two other giants of the fur trade, Kit Carson and 


Alexis Godey. In an effort to locate a new trail, Fremont 
marched out along the Kansas rather than the Platte 
River, crossed over the Front Range of the Rockies at 
the head of the Cache de la Poudre River, then trekked 
over the barren Laramie Plain to the Sweetwater and 
South Pass. From there he and his men crossed the 
Wasatch Mountains and gazed upon the Great Salt Lake 
as it lay before them in "still and solitary grandeur." The 
Pathfinder," as he came to be called, described the Salt 
Lake Valley in such glowing terms that when Brigham 
Young took his beleaguered Mormons out of Nauvoo, 
111., Fremont's report probably influenced his decision to 
settle in the deserts of Utah. 

Fremont pushed on, past the British outpost at Fort 
Hall in Idaho to the Columbia River where he paused at 
the Dalles. He sent a party on to the mouth of the 
Columbia and thus technically linked up with the Wilkes 
expedition, but his mind really was set on turning south- 
ward in search of the elusive "Rio Buenaventura." On 
November 23, 1843, he did just that. He and his men 
followed the Des Chutes River for a few days, coming 
out on the northern edge of what Fremont was the first to 
recognize as the Great Basin. (In fact he gave it that 
name.) The rest of the journey took them south along the 
Sierra. In the middle of winter, almost in despair of their 
lives, he and his men crossed over the Sierra above Lake 
Tahoe. They finally struggled down from the peaks and 
followed the American River to Capt. Johann Sutter's 
new ranch, which Chiles' emigrant party had already 
reached over an easier route. In crossing the Sierra and 
descending the American River, Fremont and his men 
had, of course, walked right over California's main gold 
region, which in 6 years would be crowded with goldseekers 
of every description. But the Pathfinder and his men 
were not exploring for gold; they were primarily inter- 
ested in California's possibilities for agricultural settle- 
ment by Americans. On this account Fremont wrote 
glowing reports about California as a pastoral paradise. 

His return march took him across Tehachapi Pass and 
over the Old Spanish Trail across the Great Basin desert 
to within sight of where the modern city of Las Vegas 
stands today. There he was joined by ex-mountain man 
Joe Walker, who showed him a short cut across the 
Colorado River plateau. Then he traveled along the 
White and Duchesne rivers just below the Uinta Moun- 
tains to the Bayou Salade or great South Park of Colo- 
rado. This stretch included some of the wildest and 

Senator Thomas Hart Ben- 
ton, leading advocate of 
A merican expansionism 
during the first half of the 
19th century. He used the ex- 
plorations of his son-in-law- 
John C. Fremont to buttress 
his arguments urging settle- 
ment of the trans-Mississippi 


Kit Carson served as a guide 
on a number of Fremont s 
expeditions, and the two 
remained lifelong friends. 

least known parts of the western wilderness. 

From the parks of Colorado the return journey was 
over a familiar route via the head of the Arkansas River 
and Bent's Fort on the Arkansas near the junction of the 
Purgatory River. On his expedition of 1843-44, Fremont 
had, in effect, circumnavigated the whole West. Clearly 
he had not been a pathfinder, but rather a political and 
scientific explorer. He was searching out the possibilities 
for an American occupation of the West. With this in 
mind, and with the substantial aid of Charles Preuss, his 
Prussian cartographer, he made the first overall map of 
the West based on accurate astronomical sightings. He 
also refused to include portions of the West he had not 
seen, though he made an error in connecting Great 
Salt Lake with freshwater Utah Lake. He did, however, 
correctly define and label the immense Great Basin for 
the first time. This was perhaps his greatest geographical 
achievement. He also followed up his large comprehen- 
sive map with an emigrant map drawn in seven sections 
by Charles Preuss. This became one of the most impor- 
tant of all maps of the Oregon and California trails 
because it gave precise distances and detailed informa- 
tion on landmarks, river crossings, grazing lands and 
Indian tribes. When Fremont submitted his report and 
maps to Congress they created a sensation and were 
reprinted and widely distributed. He was the explorer- 
as-propagandist without equal. 

Fremont did not rest on his laurels, however. In the 
spring of 1845 he headed west again, ostensibly to explore 
the U.S.-Mexican border country at the headwaters of 
the Arkansas and Red Rivers. After journeying to the 
Upper Arkansas, he sent his second-in-command, Lt. 
James W. Abert, down the Canadian River with his 
report. Then, with a tough crew of seasoned mountain 
men, he headed west across the mountains and the Salt 
Lake Desert to California. Once in California he bid 
defiance to Mexican and American authorities alike and 
put his men to the service of the Bear Flag Revolution. 

The war with Mexico introduced a greatly increased 
number of army explorers into the West. Virtually all of 
these military explorers were commissioned officers in 
the Corps of Topographical Engineers, now commanded 
by Col. John James Abert who had previously been 
Fremont's assistant. Every main element of the invading 
armies under Generals Zachary Taylor, John E. Wool, 
Stephen Watts Kearny, and Winfield Scott carried a 
complement of Topographical Engineers who aspired to 


Scenes from Fremont s ex- 

Top: Klamath Lake, Califor- 
nia, located by Fremont 
during his 1845 expedition. 
From a drawing by Edward 
M. Kern. It was here that 
Fremont reportedly received 
secret instructions from the 
U.S. Government leading to 
his involvement in the Bear 
Flag Revolt. Center: Sutter's 
Fort in 1847, just after the 
American flag was raised 
over it for the first time. It 
was near here a year later 
that gold was discovered, set- 
ting off the great California 
gold rush of 1849. Bottom: 
Pass in the Sierra Nevada 
during the winter of 1843-44. 
From a nearby peak Fremont 
saw Lake Tahoe for the first 


Jefferson Davis of Mississippi 
was responsible for develop- 
ing and coordinating the 
Pacific Railroad Surveys. His 
advocacy of a Southern route 
in his final report to Con- 
gress led critics to charge 
that the Surveys were biased 
from the start. 

match Fremont's spectacular success. 

The most important work to come out of the war was 
done by Lt. William H. Emory, who accompanied Gen- 
eral Kearny's command to Santa Fe and then west via 
the Gila River and the Mojave Desert to California. 
Emory published a detailed report of the march, com- 
plete with the first accurate map of the Southwest. His 
Notes of a Military Reconnaissance from Fort Leavenworth 
in Missouri to San Diego in California, Including Parts of 
the Arkansas, Del Norte, and Gila Rivers (1848) is a 
classic of western exploration. In it he made two obser- 
vations that were to have major importance in western 
and American history. First he said that much of the 
Southwest was too arid for individual settlement: no 
enterprise could survive without cooperation in the dis- 
tribution of water. Secondly, he declared that "No one 
who has ever visited this country and who is acquainted 
with the character and value of slave labor in the United 
States would ever think of bringing his slaves here with 
any view to profit . . . ." The latter sentiment, since 
Emory was a fellow Whig, undoubtedly influenced Daniel 
Webster's speech on the Compromise of 1850 concern- 
ing "the imaginary Negro in an impossible place." 

Emory's war experiences made him probably the coun- 
try's leading expert on the Southwest, and this expertise 
was soon needed. The treaty ending the Mexican War 
had drawn a boundary based on geographical ideas that 
were vague at best, and in some places completely wrong. 
To correct this, Emory, between 1848 and 1855, was 
called upon to supervise the demarcation of the United 
States-Mexican Boundary line from Brownsville on the 
Rio Grande to San Diego on the Pacific. This was a new 
kind of exploration— regional exploration on a vast scale. 
It resulted in the actual laying down of the astronomically 
determined boundary upon the earth by a system of 
markers. Most important, it resulted in maps and an 
extensive regional survey of geology, flora, fauna, arche- 
ology and Indian tribes. It also raised the question of the 
possibility of a southern transcontinental railroad route, 
which led to the Gadsden Purchase. Thus Emory was a 
pathfinder for the new age of locomotion and steam. 

The most spectacular Army exploration of the period 
came in 1853, when Secretary of War Jefferson Davis 
ordered the Topographical Corps into the field to con- 
duct a series of explorations and surveys across the West 
to determine the most feasible route for a transcontinen- 
tal railroad. Isaac I. Stephens, seconded by Capt. George 


wL«^, tJJJfcJAgj 


77z£ Pacific Railroad 
Reports, published in 13 vol- 
umes, contain some of the 
best landscape descriptions 
of the American West during 
the 1850s. Accompanying the 
Reports was a series oftwo- 
and three-color lithographs 
by a number of individual 
artists, among them R. H. 
Kern, John Mix Stanley, 
F. W. von Egloffstein, H. B. 
Mollhausen, and Gustave 
Sohon. Those reproduced 
here are from the Isaac I. 
Stevens Survey of 1853-54 
and rank among the best of 
the series. From top to bot- 
tom, they show a herd of 
bison near Lake Jessie in east- 
central North Dakota, by 
J. M. Stanley; members of the 
Survey party crossing the 
Bitterroot River in western 
Montana, also by Stanley; 
and an eastward view of 
Clark s Fork south of Flat- 
head Lake, by Gustave 


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The Pacific Railroad Surveys 







' Parke 



1869, May 10th. 1868. 

Rail Boad from the Atlantic to the Pacific 



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Be Snre they Read via Platte Valley or Omaha 

Poster distributed by the 
Union Pacific Railroad, ex- 
tolling the virtues of coast-to- 
coast train travel. 

B. McClellan, led a northern survey between the 47th 
and 49th parallels that sought to connect the Great 
Lakes with the Pacific Coast. Lt. John W. Gunnison led 
another party out along the 38th parallel below the Uinta 
Mountains and far south of the Great Salt Lake. Lt. 
Amiel Weeks Whipple traversed the 35th parallel west 
from Santa Fe. And Lts. John G. Parke and John B. Pope 
worked from each end of a southwestern or 32nd parallel 
route. Parke and Lt. Henry L. Abbott also explored 
north and south along the Pacific Coast for a route that 
would link up the coastal ports with whatever railroads 
might be built. There were also other parties in the field. 
Fremont, now resigned from the army, led a party along 
a line close to his march of 1845, and they almost perished 
in the deep snows of the southern Rockies. (The great 
mountain man Bill Williams did perish trying to retrieve 
their gear.) Also the Texan engineer, Andrew B. Gray, 
led a State-sponsored survey out across the Pecos River 
that he hoped would connect up with any line moving 
west from El Paso del Norte. 

Only one great tragedy occurred on the surveys: Lieu- 
tenant Gunnison and most of his men were massacred by 
the Ute Indians on the Sevier River in Utah. Thereupon 
Lt. Edward G. Beckwith assumed command and traced 
out a route from Great Salt Lake across to California. He 
was aided by Capt. Howard Stansbury's careful survey 
and map of Great Salt Lake in 1849-50. 

The result of the Pacific Railroad Surveys in immedi- 
ate practical terms was nil. Each of the expedition lead- 
ers proclaimed his route to the Pacific the "most practicable" 
one, which left the whole question deadlocked by sec- 
tional politics in Congress. Secretary Davis clearly favored 
the southern route in his final report, but factions split 
the South as would-be terminal cities all up and down the 
Mississippi argued for the honor. It was not until the 
summer of 1866 that James T. Evans, working under the 
command of Col. Grenville M. Dodge, discovered Lone 
Tree (now Evans) Pass over the Rocky Mountains and 
made the Union Pacific portion of a transcontinental 
railroad possible. A Republican-Unionist Administra- 
tion under Abraham Lincoln had long since decreed 
that the route would be a northern one, with its eastern 
terminus at Omaha across the Mississippi from Council 
Bluffs. As early as 1860 Californians had determined that 
Donner Pass was suitable for a railroad over the Sierra, 
and by July 1, 1862, when the Pacific Railroad Bill was 
signed into law, Sacramento had been chosen for the 


western or Central Pacific terminus. 

The transcontinental railroad was finally completed 
on May 10, 1869, when construction crews and dignitar- 
ies of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads 
met and joined track at Promontory, Utah. Over a 
thousand miles long, and scaling two immense mountain 
ranges and the vast stretches of the Great Basin, it was 
the engineering wonder of the age. It was also a signifi- 
cant achievement in the history of exploration— one that 
has often been overlooked because it was conducted by 
teams of surveyors and engineers rather than individual 
military heroes like Fremont. 

In addition to the railroad surveys, throughout the 
1840s and 1850s army explorers conducted what amounted 
to a "great reconnaissance" of the American West. Many 
expeditions crossed the Southwest, for example. In 1849 
Lt. James Hervey Simpson led the first expedition since 
the days of the Spaniards into the Navajo stronghold at 
Canyon de Chelly. High up on the canyon walls he and 
his men discovered the lost cliff dwelling of the Anasazi. 
In 1851 Capt. Lorenzo Sitgreaves trekked across the 
Southwest just below the Grand Canyon in an early 
search for a wagon or railroad route. Six years later 
aboard a prefabricated steamboat Lt. Joseph Christmas 
Ives chugged up the Colorado River to Black Canyon, 
then marched overland and down into the Grand Can- 
yon at Diamond Creek. He and his party were the first 
white men ever to reach the floor of the canyon. Along 
with his party was the geologist John Strong Newberry 
who saw the possibilities of such a deep descent into the 
earth and traced out the first important stratigraphic 
column in the West. His description of the different 
layers of earth that he could observe from the canyon 
floor provided a measuring stick for all future geologists 
in the West. Ives' report on the expedition was a master- 
piece in both literary and scientific terms. Not the least of 
its contributions, besides Newberry's column, was the 
first relief map of the West drawn by the Prussian, F.W. 
von Egloffstein. Hardly had Ives finished his expedition 
at the Hopi Villages of Oraibi and Moenkopi than Capt. 
John N. Macomb discovered and described the junction 
of the Green and the Grand Rivers in western Colorado, 
thus fitting a key piece into the puzzle of western geog- 
raphy. Macomb and his men also saw abundant remains 
of the lost Anasazi civilization as they marched along the 
San Juan River, though they missed the grandest ruin of 
them all— Mesa Verde. 


Capt. James H. Simpson, one 
of the ablest officers of the 
Corps of Topographical En- 
gineers. By the time he left 
the field in 1859, he had 
marched over more of the 
West than any other military 

Farther north Lieutenant Simpson crossed the Great 
Basin once again in search of a railroad route while Capt. 
William F. Raynolds explored the Dakota Badlands and 
the Upper Missouri. Along with Raynolds were two 
paleontologists, Fielding Bradford Meek and Ferdinand 
V. Hayden, Together they worked out the cretaceous 
geological horizon of the Dakota country and discovered 
great caches of extinct animal bones. When they brought 
their collections back to Philadelphia they provided Dr. 
Joseph Leidy with the material for the first important 
book on Western American paleontology, The Ancient 
Fauna of Nebraska. Leidy also found the remains of tiny 
primitive horses among the collections and published a 
paper showing how the horse had evolved through time. 
(This came out just before Charles Darwin published his 
revolutionary work, On the Origin of Species.) And 
finally, as if to close out exploration in the continental 
United States just on the eve of the Civil War, Lt. John G. 
Parke, working with the British Royal Engineers, laid out 
through the Northwest wilderness the last boundary 
between the United States and Canada. 

All of these expeditions were described in lavishly 
illustrated reports published by Congress. Taken together 
the reports represent the most comprehensive body of 
information about the West up to that time. The center- 
piece of all the knowledge realized from Army exploring 
activity during this era of the "great reconnaissance" was 
the extraordinary set of 13 volumes generated by the 
Pacific Railroad Surveys and published between 1854 
and 1859. They represented "an encyclopedia of western 
experience/' In addition to the narrative accounts of the 
individual expeditions, the Pacific Railroad Reports also 
included reports on geology, complete with geologic 
maps of vast regions; descriptions of plants, animals, 
birds, and fishes; and an ethnographic report covering 
most of the Indian tribes of the West. In scientific terms 
the Pacific Railroad Reports dramatically illustrated the 
advent of specialization and teamwork in the study of a 
region. Because they were also aimed at determining the 
possibilities of the whole West for different kinds of 
settlement they represented a very early and monumen- 
tal example of ecological study. And finally they represented 
a cartographical milestone. Each expedition produced a 
detailed map of the country it traversed. All these were 
published in the Reports, but in addition Lt. Gouverneur 
Kemble Warren compiled the data from these maps and 
those of all the other Army expeditions into the first 


. ■'»' 


Simpson 's J 859 expedition 
across Utah 's Great Basin re- 
sulted in the establishment of 
more direct emigrant and 
mail routes between Salt 
Lake City and California. 
These watercolors, created 
by Jo h n J. Young fro m 
sketches by H. V. A. von 
Beckh, were part of a series 
prepared to accompany 
Simpson 's official report. 
Top: The expedition cross- 
ing the Great Salt Lake De- 
sert, described by Simpson as 
"a somber, dreary waste, 
where neither man nor beast 
can live. "Center: A habita- 
tion of "Go-shoot" (Gosiute) 
Indians in Pleasant Valley 
near the present Utah- 
Nevada border. Bottom: The 
Simpson caravan entering 
Genoa, a Mormon settle- 
ment on the eastern slopes of 
the Sierra Nevada near Lake 
Tahoe. Genoa s 150 residents 
raised the American flag and 
fired a 13-gun salute to honor 
the successful completion of 
the expedition. 


.» v v ; :-j- -i / w 


scientifically accurate comprehensive map of the West. 
After the pioneering work of Lewis and Clark it was 
perhaps the most important map of the West ever drawn. 
In one sense, the era of Army exploration represented 
a strange phenomenon. As Daniel Boorstin has put it, 
during this period the West was "settled before it was 
explored/' What this meant, of course, was that each age 
sought different things from the West, and the develop- 
ment of science and technology refined the questions 
that explorers sought to answer as each decade passed. 
During the era of Army exploration questions shifted 
dramatically from those of the fur trader and farmer to 
those of the gold seeker, townbuilder, and railroad entre- 
preneur, as California suddenly filled with 300,000 peo- 
ple and Colorado threatened to do the same. 

Members of the Hay den Sur- 
vey take sightings from atop 
Colorado 's Sultan Mountain 
with a theodolite, an instru- 
ment which measures hori- 
zontal and vertical angles. 

The Great Post-Civil War Surveys 

The relatively sudden peopling of California as a result 
of the gold Rush stimulated a whole new era of explora- 
tion in the West. This era was dominated by great 
government-sponsored surveys that covered hundreds 
of square miles of territory and produced explorers of 
great daring and intelligence who served in public employ. 
As early as 1860 California hired Josiah Dwight Whitney, 
a Yale Phi Beta Kappa trained in Europe, to lead a 
survey team that was to explore the whole State in search 
of mineral resources. Whitney, however, saw his task as 
larger than "a mere prospecting expedition." He landed 
in San Francisco intent upon making a thorough scien- 
tific study of California, including its complex geology as 
well as its flora and fauna. As such, his work would 
provide a model for all future surveys in the great West. 
For the next decade (all through the Civil War) he and a 
crack team of naturalist-explorers carefully mapped Cal- 
ifornia's varied and complex terrain from Death Valley 
in the south to Lassen's Peak in the north. His team 
included William H. Brewer, James Terry Gardner, and 
Clarence King, all also of Yale. None of them were 
tenderfeet for long, however. With incredible diligence 
and daring they clambered up and down the highest 
peaks of the Sierras, scaled the walls of Yosemite, braved 
1 18-degree heat to map the deserts of the south and even 
descended into the frightening mines of the Comstock 
Lode. Whitney himself was set upon by highwaymen; 
Brewer and his parties on many occasions arrived back 
at base camp ragged and starving. King, however, was 


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the most flamboyant of all. He was a new style of moun- 
tain man. Imbued with the Alpine or mountain climber's 
temperment just then emerging in Europe, King, when- 
ever he could, made for "the top of California"— the 
highest peaks he could find. He scaled Lassen's lonely 
blue cone, and in 1864 after a series of harrowing adven- 
tures among the ice fields and awful gorges of the upper 
Kern River country, he climbed and named Mount Tyndall, 
which he thought to be the highest mountain in Cali- 
fornia—until he looked away in the distance over the 
jagged peaks and saw Mt. Whitney. It was years before 
he could climb that peak but he did not rest until he had 
done so. All of these adventures he vividly described in 
his western classic, Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada 

By 1870 Whitney and his men had completed a mod- 
ern scientific survey of California. They had mapped the 
whole State for the first time, and had untangled its 
complex geology. They had surveyed all of the known 
mineral deposits and examined the possibilities for agri- 
culture. Whitney's two scientific works, Geology of Cali- 
fornia and The Auriferous Gravels of California were 
classics, while his Yosemite Book matched Clarence 
King's Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada as an intro- 
duction to the wonders and beauties of the state. In the 
course of their labors, too, Whitney and his men used 
their influence in Washington to persuade President 
Abraham Lincoln to grant the Yosemite Valley to Cali- 
fornia for a public park. Lincoln did so in 1864, thereby 
setting the precedent for the national wilderness park 
idea, which became a unique American contribution to 

But all did not go well with Whitney's survey. The 
California legislature did not find him diligent enough in 
locating mineral deposits— and they failed to recognize 
that terms like "auriferous gravels" meant gold-bearing 
strata. They chided him and his men for being eastern 
"dudes" and "dandies" and Whitney especially for falling 
prey to the "Calaveras Skull Hoax." In the latter case, 
two drunken miners had planted an Indian skull deep in 
the base of a mine shaft, and Whitney was led to believe 
that it was the remains of an extinct, pre-historic man. All 
California laughed. But no one laughed when Yale chem- 
ist Benjamin Silliman pointed out that Whitney and his 
men had overlooked immense deposits of oil in and 
around Santa Barbara. This was inexcusable. No matter 
that the oil discovered was not commercially usable, that 


three companies floated by Silliman were declared fraudu- 
lent, that Silliman as a result was dismissed from the Yale 
faculty and drummed out of the world of serious science 
forever. What mattered was that the "dudes" had missed 
a "main chance" for wealth-seeking Californians. By 
1870 Whitney's survey was dead. "Oil has done us in" he 
wrote mournfully to his brother back in New Haven, 
Conn. Yet the California Survey produced a prototype 
for the great surveys that provided the institutional form 
for the exploration of the West after the Civil War. 

However scientifically organized exploration became 
in this period, it did not preclude feats of individual 
adventuring. In May 1869 one-armed Maj. John Wesley 
Powell and nine volunteers set off down the Green River 
in an effort to explore the last completely unknown 
major river in the United States— the mighty Colorado 
of the West. For 92 days Powell and his men braved the 
river in four small boats, never knowing what to expect. 
They cut right through the Uintas on foaming cataracts, 
passed through the flaming gorges of Lodore Canyon, 
cruised placidly for a time past the Yampa River coun- 
try, paused awestruck before the intricately carved for- 
mations at the junction of the Grand (now the main 
branch of the Colorado) with the Green, shot through 
Glen Canyon and the awful treacherous rapids of Mar- 
ble Canyon, and entered into the majesty of the Grand 
Canyon itself with its cliffs towering well over a mile 
above them and the waters foaming and crashing over 
boulders and cataracts. By the time Powell finally emerged 
at Callville, a Mormon settlement below the canyon, he 
had been given up for dead by virtually every newspaper 
editor in the country. Indeed, he had lost two boats, one 
man had deserted early at the Ute Indian Agency, and 
three others attempting to climb out of the Grand Can- 
yon were killed by Indians. But the expedition survived; 
the Colorado and the Grand Canyon no longer were 
mysteries; and along the way they had discovered the 
last unknown river (the Dirty Devil) and the last unknown 
mountain range (the Henry) in the American West. 

Powell's trip was more than a stunt, however. He was a 
serious scientific explorer, so serious that in the summer 
of 1871 he made the hazardous trip again, mapping and 
surveying the route carefully and giving a name to the 
whole canyon country— the Colorado Plateau Region. 
Powell's team became a survey group, "The United 
States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Rocky 
Mountains," operating first under the Smithsonian Insti- 

John Wesley Powell, geolo- 
gist, teacher, and explorer, 
led the first expedition down 
the Colorado River through 
the Grand Canyon in 1869. 


tution, then under the Department of the Interior. As 
Powell saw it, the first task was the mapping of the whole 
Colorado River region. This he placed in charge of his 
brother-in-law Almon H. Thompson and a young appren- 
tice, Frederick Dellenbaugh. He also employed a pho- 
tographer, E. O. Beaman from Salt Lake City, to capture 
the stupendous sights on wet plate, glass negatives. Beaman 
soon left the wilderness, however, and his place was 
taken by Jack Hillers, who became one of the great 
photographers of the early West. 

Powell had two main concerns. He was intensely inter- 
ested in the mechanics of just how the Colorado Plateau 
and the Colorado River had come about. In this instance 
he was asking an almost revolutionary question for geol- 
ogists of his time: how exactly did nature work? His 
second concern related to the possibilities for settlement 
in what obviously was an arid region. To answer his 
theoretical question, Powell assembled still another team, 
some of whose members should not be forgotten— 
Clarence Dutton, Grove Karl Gilbert and William H. 
Holmes— who explored the high plateaus of Utah, includ- 
ing Zion and Bryce Canyons, the Henry and Uinta 
Mountains, and the Colorado Plateau. In so doing they 
put together a complete picture of the way in which the 
Colorado Plateau was uplifted through eons while the 
Colorado River steadily cut down through layer upon 
layer of rock strata, carving out the beautiful and intri- 
cate canyons and "denuding" the great Colorado Plateau 
over a thousand square miles. Powell's reports and those 
of his scientific compatriots, especially Dutton and Gil- 
bert, together formed a model of the process of uplift 
and erosion on a gigantic scale that had applicability 
anywhere in the world. They had added the science of 
mechanics to geology which had heretofore been an 
historical study of the age of the earth. 

Because of these studies Powell had a clearer answer 
to his second question. In 1878 he published A Report 
Upon Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States, 
one of the most important books ever produced by an 
American. In it he called for restraint on the headlong 
settlement of the West and the wasting of scarce resources. 
The arid regions would not support the traditional family 
farm, he said, because water placed limits on all settle- 
ment and forced cooperation. Moreover, all the western 
lands needed to be classified according to potentially 
efficient use— farming lands, grazing lands, timber lands, 
mineral lands— and careful planning exercised through 


voluntary cooperation at every stage of settlement. If 
sodbusters, cattlemen, and greedy mining magnates had 
listened to Powell there would have been far less feuding 
in the Gilded Age West, a new and better Homestead 
Act, and far more resources left for future generations. 
John Wesley Powell was an explorer-turned-scientific 
prophet and reformer. The adventure of his canyon 
voyage turned out to have a further major impact on the 
country when he helped establish the U.S. Geological 
Survey in 1879. 

Meanwhile, in the late 1860s and 1870s, several oth- 
er survey teams of explorers were combing the West. 
The irrepressible Clarence King had secured War Depart- 
ment support for a bold project— the U.S. Survey of the 
Fortieth Parallel. Beginning in 1867, when he left the 
California Survey, King and a team explored and mapped 
a great 100-mile swath across the West from the Sierra to 
the Front Range of the Rockies along the route of the 
proposed transcontinental railroad. Every year from 1867 
to 1872 King had men in the field mapping the country, 
studying its geology, looking for gold and silver deposits, 
collecting plants and animals— essentially engaging in 
every kind of endeavor that would indicate to the gov- 
ernment the utility of the land across which the railroad 
would pass and on which presumably settlements would 
spring up. Always the adventurer, King chased down 
robbers and deserters, crawled into caves after grizzly 
bears, and scaled all the high mountains. He even man- 
aged to get himself struck by lightning, turning one half 
of his body brown for nearly a week. There is not room 
to recount the individual adventures of King and his men 
of the Fortieth Parallel Survey. Suffice it to say that out 
in the arid wastes of the Great Basin or atop the highest 
peaks of the central Rockies they braved many of the 
same dangers of the earlier mountain men of Jedediah 
Smith's generation. King s work, like Powell's, had both 
theoretical and practical significance. His Systematic 
Geology masterfully reconstructed the entire geologic 
history of the West while his co-workers' monograph, 
The Mining Industry, became the definitive work on 
that vital subject. (Unlike Whitney, King would not see 
his survey fail for want of attention to mining, which was 
of the greatest interest to western speculators.) And in 
1873, as if to dramatize his own interest in this all- 
important subject and the utility of science, King exposed 
one of the West's greatest frauds— the Great Diamond 
Hoax. Two confidence men had salted a mesa with 

Clarence King, surveyor of 
the Fortieth Parallel, 1867- 
72, introduced into mapping 
the system of denoting to- 
pography by using contour 
lines. He also helped organ- 
ize the U. S. Geological 
Survey, becoming its first 
director in 1879. 



Nathaniel P. Langford (top) 
and Henry D. Washburn led 
the first full-scale exploring 
expedition into the Yellow- 
stone region in 1870. Lang- 
ford later claimed credit for 
being the first to urge crea- 
tion of Yellowstone as a 
national park. He was the 
park 's first superintendent. 
Right: "The Grand Canyon 
of the Yellowstone, "from 
the painting by Thomas 
Moran. 1872. 

diamonds and persuaded San Francisco and eastern 
investors that the land could be theirs for $600,000. 
Pocketing the money, the confidence men disappeared. 
King, acutely aware of the California oil fraud, was 
suspicious. Through careful detective work involving his 
knowledge of the geology and geography of the Rocky 
Mountain region, King and his men (almost rivalling 
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson) found the diamond 
mesa, which the speculators had kept secret, determined 
it to be salted, and exposed the hoax, thereby saving 
investors across the nation millions. Nothing did more to 
credit the scientific explorer in the Gilded Age than 
Kings feat of detective work. 

Throughout the 1870s the army continued to explore 
and re-explore the West. Individual expeditions were 
sent out under the authority of various commands, and 
some turned out to be important. In 1870 under the 
urging of Nathaniel P. Langford, the army supplied a 
military escort for an expedition into the still little-known 
Yellowstone region. The civilian party was led by Henry 
D. Washburn and Langford himself, while the escort was 
led by Lt. Gustavus Doane. They entered the Yellowstone 
Park area in late August 1870 and immediately were 
dazzled by its marvels. As they passed by the painted 
pools, stupendous canyons, and spurting geysers, the 
men of the Washburn-Doane expedition named them all 
and together determined to see to it that the whole 
region became a national park. Langford (soon to be 
called "National Park" Langford) worked ceaselessly at 
the project. Lieutenant Doane's map defined the area, 
and the military expedition of Capt. John Whitney Barlow 
the following year helped push the proposal forward. 

The army mounted its most extensive exploring oper- 
ation far to the west and south. This was Lt. George 
Montague Wheelers "United States Geographical Sur- 
veys West of the One Hundredth Meridian." Wheeler, 
who had graduated from West Point in 1866, too late 
to make his mark in the Civil War, yearned to emulate 
the pre-war feats of the Army Topographical engineer 
explorers. Attached to Gen. Edward O. C. Ord's com- 
mand in California, Wheeler spent the years 1867 to 1870 
exploring and mapping the deserts of the Great Basin 
south of Clarence King's Fortieth Parallel Survey. By 
1871 the army had become interested in the Colorado 
River as a means of supplying its garrisons in the central 
Rockies. Wheeler, as chief of the army surveys west of 
the 100th meridian, headed south from Halleck Station 


Ferdinand V. Hayden (top) 
and George M. Wheeler were 
both censured by Congress 

in 1874 for their intemperate 
exchanges o ver survey juris- 
diction. Their clash was sym- 
bolic of the larger controversy 
over whether the Western 
Surveys should be controlled 
by civilians or the military. It 
was to avoid such clashes 
and duplication of survey 
efforts that the U. S. Geo- 
logical Survev was created in 

on the Central Pacific Railroad in May 1871. He divided 
his survey up into teams which zigzagged south, east, and 
west across Nevada, mapping enormous amounts of 
territory. Three of Wheelers parties, including one he 
led himself, struggled across the furnace-hot wastes of 
Death Valley, making the definitive map of that future 
national monument. But Wheelers most spectacular 
feat was his expedition by boat up the Colorado River 
and into Grand Canyon as far as Diamond Creek, the 
point reached by Lt. Joseph Ives in 1857. 

After his Grand Canyon expedition in 1871 Wheeler 
realized that, as he put it, "the day of the pathfinder has 
sensibly ended ," and he organized his men into survey 
teams who mapped the West beyond the 100th meridian 
in a series of quadrants similar to those later used by the 
U.S. Geological Survey. Despite bureaucratic clashes 
with civilian scientific parties under Powell and espe- 
cially Ferdinand V. Hayden, by 1879 when his survey 
was terminated Wheeler had mapped almost one-third of 
the country west of the 100th meridian. He had devised 
the contour map and produced in all some 71 maps of 
the West. He had studied the Comstock Lode and the 
Grand Canyon in detail and his photographer, Timothy 
CTSullivan, had taken spectacular photographs of the 
Grand Canyon Expedition. In the end, however, 
Wheelers work proved to be the "last stand" of the 
army explorer in the West. His survey gave way to the 
civilian-controlled U.S. Geological Survey in 1879. 

The last of the Great Surveys, the one led by Ferdinand 
V. Hayden, was also in a sense the first of the surveys. 
Before the Civil War, Hayden and his partner, Fielding 
B. Meek, a paleontologist, had explored the Dakota 
Badlands with various army expeditions. At the close of 
the war, Hayden began a State survey of Nebraska. His 
work so pleased Congress that in 1869 he was given a 
large appropriation and made head of the "United States 
Geological Survey of the Territories. ,, Hayden was a 
good theoretical geologist but his eye was on the practi- 
cal. The purpose of his expeditions to the Rocky Moun- 
tains was to find coal and other minerals; consequently 
he was always well supported by Congress as well as 
local western interests. In addition to his interest in 
western minerals, Hayden also was one of the first to see 
the West as the land of the nature-loving tourist. His 
expedition into the Yellowstone geyser region in 1871 
resulted in spectacular photographs by William H. Jackson, 
breathtaking panoramic drawings by the young topog- 

rapher William H. Holmes, and grand Ruskinian rendi- 
tions of Yellowstone's marvelous features by Thomas 
Moran, the country's foremost landscape painter. 

Hay den, like Doane and Barlow earlier, was over- 
whelmed by the "grandeur and beauty" of the Yellowstone 
region. Drawing upon the precedent set by the Yosemite 
Act of 1864, Hayden promoted a Yellowstone Park bill 
in Washington in late 1871 and early 1872. On March 1, 
1872, following a surprisingly easy passage by Congress, 
the bill was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant 
and the first national park was born. 

The Yellowstone expedition made Hayden famous, 
but perhaps his most important work was the detailed 
exploration and mapping of mountainous Colorado. Here 
his teams worked through some of the ruggedest country 
in the West to complete the masterful Atlas of Colorado. 
They also discovered one of the great symbolic wonders 
of the West— the Mount of the Holy Cross, a high peak 
in western Colorado across the face of which snow had 
formed a mammoth cross. When the explorers first stum- 
bled across a shoulder of Notch Mountain and the Mount 
of the Holy Cross burst into view with a shining radiance, 
a rainbow also formed a kind of halo about the mountain 
and its cross. To them and to countless thousands who 
saw Moran's painting and Jackson's photographs, the 
mountain was the epitome of God smiling down upon 
the sublime, unspoiled beauty of the American West. 

Hayden's men, notably the photographer Jackson and 
the artist Holmes, made one other important discovery. 
In 1874 while surveying the San Juan River country in 
southern Colorado, they turned up Mancos Canyon and 
there, high up on the canyon walls, they saw ancient cliff 
dwellings of the long vanished Indian civilization called 
by contemporary Indians the Anasazi or "the Ancient 
Ones." For the next 2 years Jackson and Holmes led 
expeditions into Mancos Canyon and other ancient pueblo 
sites in Chaco Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, and the three 
sacred mesas of the Hopi. In their careful work they 
revealed a lost horizon of ancient civilization to Gilded 
Age America. Models of the Anasazi ruins were one of 
the features of the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 

But despite the spectacular work of Hayden and his 
men, his survey too came to an end in 1879. All of the 
Great Surveys— those of Powell, King, Hayden, and 
Wheeler— were consolidated into one great bureau, the 
U.S. Geological Survey. For a time, King became its 



I I 




j-IV** »^„. 




chief, then Powell assumed the directorship and brought 
it to national prominence. Under Powell the exploration 
of the West was organized as never before and related 
most directly to the great national problem of how best 
to utilize the resources of the West for the American 
people. Science and management techniques had seem- 
ingly replaced the great day of the individual explorer. 
The year 1879 appeared to mark the end of the individ- 
ual explorer's frontier just as surely as the census report 
of 1890 perhaps prematurely announced the end of the 
settler's frontier. 

Spectacular discovery, if not the urge for exploration, 
did not really die with the Great Surveys in 1879 howev- 
er. On a wintery December day in 1888, for instance, a 
cowboy named Richard Wetherill and his sidekick Charlie 
Mason, looking for wandering cattle, climbed out upon a 
windswept point in Mesa Verde and, looking down into 
a deep valley, they saw, like a "mirage" in the falling 
snow— the Cliff Palace, its walls, towers and turrets 
undisturbed perhaps for centuries. It stunned their imag- 
inations, and Wetherill dedicated his life to untangling 
the secrets of Mesa Verde. Year after year he discovered 
more ruins tucked away in the high places. Then he 
fanned out over the whole San Juan country, discovering 
countless other ruins like Kiet Siel and Grand Gulch. 
Eventually he built a house adjoining the massive Pueblo 
Bonito ruin at Chaco Canyon, living there until his death 
in 1910. 

But the death of Richard Wetherill is not the end of 
the story. A whole generation of archeologists followed 
in his footsteps. Thus one age of exploration has succeeded 
another and, despite the superhighway, the proliferation 
of ski lodges, and endless sprouting of strip culture towns 
and burgeoning cities that all look like Los Angeles, the 
West remains a place to be explored, whether on the 
cosmic scale of satellite and heat-sensitive camera, or on 
the still practical human scale of the individual for whom 
each canyon, each river, each remaining patch of wil- 
derness will still yield the wonder of discovery. 

William H. Goetzmann 

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde, 
discovered by cowboys 
Richard Wetherill and 
Charlie Mason in 1888. Al- 
though other Mesa Verde 
cliff dwellings had been dis- 
covered as early as 1874-75, 
the Cliff Palace group was by 
far the largest and most 


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The documentary record of 19th century exploring 
activity in the trans-Mississippi West is remarkably 
complete. The written record, the largest of all, con- 
sists of published and unpublished diaries, journals, 
official reports, correspondence, and field notes filling 
hundreds of volumes on library shelves and thousands 
of dusty storage boxes in archival collections across 
the country. Just as impressive, though not nearly so 
large, is the pictorial record created by artists, cartog- 
raphers, and photographers which complements and 
sometimes expands on the written sources. 

Some of the most vivid, colorful, and, in some 
cases, only record of the early trans-Mississippi West 
comes from the sketch pads and canvasses of the 
artists who, either as part of organized exploring 
expeditions or on their own as travelers, drew and 
painted what they saw or experienced. Expeditionary 
cartographers, faced with the challenge of describing 
new scientific and geological discoveries that could 
not otherwise be easily explained, did so in the form 
of maps, charts, graphs, artificially contrived panora- 
mas, and various kinds of landform drawings which, 
according to one historian, "resemble modern paint- 
ings." And when photography became a more porta- 
ble medium in the 1860s, western survey leaders were 
quick to embrace it, not only as a way of guaranteeing 
greater accuracy in documenting their work but as a 
means of bringing their activities and the wonders of 
the West to the attention of the public and the 
Congress, upon whom they depended for support and 

All in all, the pictorial record of trans-Mississippi 
exploration between 1803 and 1879 is a rich and 
varied source of firsthand observation by highly quali- 
fied observers. Part of that record, a sampling only, 
appears on the following pages. 

An unknown photographer 

perches precariously atop 
Glacier Point to compose a 
panorama of Yosemite Val- 
ley. Landscape photographer 
William Henry Jackson once 
said that successful photog- 
raphy requires labor, pa- 
tience, and moral stamina. " 
He should have included 
"courage" in his list. Preced- 
ing pages: Artist Albert Bier- 
stadt is photographed by Ead- 
weard Muy bridge while 
sketching Indians in Yosem- 
ite in 1872. For a reproduc- 
tion of the painting that 
resulted from this sketching 
session, see page 103. 


The Artists 

They came with the same 
sense of adventure and un- 
certainty that motivated the 
scientists and engineers, and 
they faced the same heat, 
cold, wind, rain, and dust. 
Some were self-taught, some 
were trained in the best Eu- 
ropean tradition, and, while 
what they recorded was 
influenced by individual 
psychological, social, and 
esthetic values, all strove to 
document as accurately as 
possible the new land and 
people they encountered. 

Their numbers were legion, 
and only a few can be men- 

tioned here. Two Philadel- 
phians, Samuel Seymour and 
Titian Ramsay Peale (son of 
Charles), were the first of 
many artists to accompany 
an official U.S. Government 
exploring expedition. Joining 
Stephen Long on his trek to 
the Rockies in 1820, they pro- 
vided the first views of the 
Indians, animals, and geog- 
raphy of that region. Another 
Pennsylvanian, George Cat- 
lin, made several journeys up 
the Missouri River in the 
1830s intent on studying and 
painting the Plains Indians 
before white influence 
changed them forever. Swiss 

artist Karl Bodmer, who 
traveled up the Missouri in 
1833-34 with his patron 
Prince Maximilian, painted 
some of the same Indians as 
Catlin, but with more preci- 
sion. He also created a num- 
ber of Upper Missouri land- 
scapes that are still unrivaled 
in many respects. 

In 1837 Baltimore artist 
Alfred Jacob Miller, the first 
artist to travel the Oregon 
Trail, chronicled the dying 
world of the mountain man. 
Six years later, John James 
Audubon spent 8 months 
painting animals along the 

Five artists who left an inval- 
uable record of the 1 9th 
century West. Left: George 
Catlin, from the 1849 portrait 
by English artist William H. 
Fisk. Above: Alfred Jacob 
Miller, self-portrait. Right, 
top: Albert Bierstadt, 1859. 
Right, bottom: Karl Bodmer, 
from a photograph late in 
life. Far right: Thomas 
Moran in his Newark, N. J., 
studio in the mid- 1870s. 


Missouri River for his "Quad- 
rapeds of North America" 
series. Canadian artist Paul 
Kane, deeply affected by 
Catlin's Indian gallery, jour- 
neyed beyond the Rocky 
Mountains in 1845-48 and 
filled his sketchbooks with 
notes and drawings of Indians, 
fur posts, and Northwest land- 
scapes. And far down in the 
Southwest, topographical 
artist Seth Eastman sketched 
the Texas countryside and its 
architecture while Richard 
Kern, one of three brothers 
to serve as artists on various 
expeditions, made a signifi- 
cant contribution to scientific 

knowledge with his drawings 
of the Navajo stronghold in 
Canyon de Chelly. 

Throughout the 1840s and 
1850s artists such as the Kern 
brothers, John Mix Stanley, 
Gustave Sohon, John J. 
Young, F. W. Egloffstein, 
H. B. Mollhausen, Charles 
Coppel, and Albert Bierstadt, 
among others, accompanied 
and helped to document the 
various exploring expeditions 
and railroad surveys con- 
ducted by the U.S. Army's 
Corps of Topographical En- 
gineers. When the great geo- 
logical surveys of King, 

Hayden, Wheeler, and Powell 
took the field in the late 1860s 
and 1870s, several distin- 
guished landscape painters, 
including John Henry Hill, 
Sanford Robinson Gifford, 
and Thomas Moran, occa- 
sionally went along as guest 
artists. Though they had no 
official duties, because by 
then the pictorial record of 
the surveys was maintained 
by photographers, these art- 
ists were looked upon as ef- 
fective publicizers of what 
the Rocky Mountain News 
called "the most remarkable 


The Artists 

1 Mandan Village, 1832, by 
George Catlin. Catlin's paint- 
ings and drawings of Mandan 
life and culture, including 
religious and ceremonial rit- 
uals never before witnessed 
by an outsider, provide the 
main documentation for this 
primitive Indian tribe that 
was almost exterminated by 
smallpox in 1837. 1 Buffalo 
and elk along the Upper 
Missouri River, 1833, by Karl 
Bodmer, whose paintings and 
sketches have long been ac- 
claimed for their accurate 
depiction of people and 
places of the early trans- 
Mississippi West. 3 Fort Wil- 
liam, the first Fort Laramie, 
1837, by Alfred Jacob Miller. 
For an interior view of the 
fort, see page 62. 4 "Indians 
in Council, California, 1872. " 
Detail from the painting by 
Albert Bierstadt. Unlike his 
western landscapes, which 
have been criticized for being 
too grandiose and contrived, 
Bierstadt s Indian studies 
demonstrate a preciseness 
and attention to detail that 
give them a documentary 
quality. For Eadweard Muy- 
bridge's photograph of Bier- 
stadt making sketches for 
this painting, see pages 96-97. 

.1. &. 


tr,t ) 

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U n 


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f \ 



The Artists 

"The Chasm of the Colora- 
do, "by Thomas Moran, 1874. 
Moran called it "the most 
awfully grand and impressive 
scene that I have ever yet 
seen. Above and around us 
rose a wall of 2000 feet and 
below us a vast chasm 2500 
feet in perpendicular depth 
and Yi a mile wide. At the 
bottom the river very muddy 
and seemingly only a hun- 
dred feet wide seemed slowly 
moving along but in reality is 
a rushing torrent filled with 
rapids. A suppressed sort of 
roar comes up constantly 
from the chasm but with that 
exception everything im- 
presses you with an awful 
stillness. "Moran based the 
painting on sketches he made 
during his 1873 journey down 
the Colorado with John Wes- 
ley Powells survey team. 


The Mapmakers 

The work of the 19th-century 
explorers of the trans-Missis- 
sippi West, as John Noble 
Wilford points out, "encom- 
passed the broad range of 
exploratory mapping— from 
discovery and pathfinding to 
the charting of rivers and 
railroad routes, the filling in 
of spaces on the map that 
had been blank, and search- 
ing for resources. Their maps 
projected a hitherto unknown 
world on the minds of the 
known world. Their best maps 
replaced geographical lore 
with geographical reality." 
The earliest maps of the 
trans-Mississippi area were 

those generated by the expe- 
ditions of Lewis and Clark 
and Zebulon Pike along the 
northern and southern fringes 
of the Louisiana Purchase and 
of Stephen Long to the Rocky 
Mountains. Though crude 
by later cartographic stand- 
ards, these maps nevertheless 
provided the first reliable 
geographical information on 
previously unknown lands 
and formed a basis on which 
to build what Bernard 
DeVoto called the "wester- 
ing" spirit of the Nation. 

More accurate and scientific 
mapping techniques were in- 

troduced after the Corps of 
Topographical Engineers 
took over the bulk of western 
exploration in 1838. Over the 
next 20 years expeditions 
under such topographical of- 
ficers as John C. Fremont, 
William H. Emory, -Amiel 
Weeks Whipple, James H. 
Simpson, Howard Stansbury, 
and John W. Gunnison 
helped to establish national 
boundaries, wagon trails, and 
railroad routes. In the proc- 
ess they collected a wealth of 
scientific and topographic 
data which made possible the 
creation of the first compre- 
hensive map of the trans- 


Mississippi area. 

The result was Lt. Gouver- 
neur K. Warren's general map 
of the West, based not only 
on the field reconnaissances 
of the topographical corps 
but on explorations by Lewis 
and Clark and others, includ- 
ing information obtained 
from trappers and traders. 
Completed in 1857, Warren's 
map was so thorough that 
Carl Wheat, noted historian 
of trans-Mississippi cartog- 
raphy, concludes that "subse- 
quent efforts in the way of 
maps may properly be 
deemed merely filling in the 

detail." Much of the filling-in 
was done between 1867 and 
1879 by the King, Hayden, 
Wheeler, and Powell surveys, 
which laid the scientific foun- 
dations of American geolog- 
ical, topographic, and land 
classification mapping. The 
surveys also introduced a new 
type of mapping technique 
reflected in the work of such 
artist-topographers as Wil- 
liam H. Holmes (left), whose 
panoramas convey a vivid 
impression of western land- 
scapes, like that of the 
Kaibab division of the Grand 
Canyon shown below. 

The Mapmakers 

Shown here are four of the 
most significant maps to re- 
sult from 19th century ex- 
ploring activities. 1 William 
Clark s master map of the 
West, which has been called 
"one of the most important 
maps ever made in Ameri- 
ca. "Clark began it in 1810 
and constantly updated it 
with information supplied by 
trappers, traders, and travel- 
ers on the Upper Missouri. 2 
The Fremont-Gibbs-Smith 
map, which is the only known 
map showing the extent of 
the knowledge of western 
geography that Jedediah 
Smith accumulated as a re- 
sult of his various travels. 3 
Lt. Gouverneur K. Warren's 
1857 Map of the Territory of 
the United States from the 
Mississippi to the Pacific 
Ocean. The first sophisti- 
cated map of the trans- 
Mississippi West, it accom- 
panied Secretary of War Jef- 
ferson Davis [final report to 
Congress on the results of 
the Pacific Railroad surveys. 
4 Lt. George M. Wheeler's 
1876 map of the progress of 
his U. S. Geological Survey 
West of the 100th Meridian, 
which shows for the first time 
a division of the West into 
quadrants similar to those 
later used by the U. S. 
Geological Survey. 


The Photographers 

Photographic documenta- 
tion of western exploring 
expeditions began on a broad 
scale with the great post- 
Civil War surveys of Clar- 
ence King, Ferdinand V. 
Hayden, George M. Wheeler, 
and John Wesley Powell. 
Leaders of earlier expedi- 
tions, notably John Fremont, 
Isaac I. Stevens, Lt. Joseph 
C. Ives, and Lt. James H. 
Simpson, made attempts to 
create a photographic record 
of their work, but the process 
was so slow and in other ways 
inadequate that little was 
accomplished. Simpson 
was so disappointed in the 

Three of the photographers 
who accompanied the Great 
Surveys. Above:William 
Henry Jackson kneels at the 
edge of a cliff in the Teton 
Mountains during the 1872 
Hayden Survey. Right, top: 
Timothy O Sullivan, photog- 
rapher for the King and 
Wheeler surveys, poses in 
Panama during his service 
with the U. S. Navy expedi- 
tion to the Isthmus ofDarien 
in 1870. Right: John K. 
Hillers, Po well 's photog- 
rapher, in the field in Utah, 

results of his efforts that he 
flatly concluded that "the 
camera is not adapted to 
explorations in the field, and 
a good artist, who can sketch 
readily and accurately, is 
much to be preferred/' It 
took the development of the 
collodion wet-plate process 
and the portable, if cumber- 
some, view-type camera on 
the eve of the Civil War to 
finally make expeditionary 
photography feasible. 

King, Hayden, Wheeler, and 
Powell were all strong advo- 
cates of photography, not 
only as a means of docu- 

menting their work but also 
as a form of publicity to help 
convince a sometimes reluc- 
tant Congress to continue ap- 
propriations. For this reason, 
they insisted on and obtained 
the services of some of the 
best landscape photog- 
raphers in the country. The 
record they produced, rang- 
ing from mountains, deserts, 
canyons, rivers, lakes, and 
waterfalls to the great gey- 
sers of Yellowstone, not only 
served to supplement the 
final reports of the surveys 
but told the story to thou- 
sands of people who might 
never read it. 









One of the most popular type 
of photographs during this 
period, and one that Survey 
photographers produced in 
great numbers, was the ster- 
eograph, which, when viewed 
through the hand-held ster- 
eoscope, created a three- 
dimensional image. For many 
it was the next best thing to 
being there. The stereograph 
at left was made by Timothy 
O 'Sullivan at the start of the 
1871 Wheeler expedition up 
the Colorado River. 

Q Focusing cloth 
© Sensitizing box 
Q Processing tank 
Q Chemical bottles 

The wet-plate camera and 
equipment shown at left are 
typical of those used by Sur- 
vey photographers. They 
would also have used a port- 
able dark-room tent (either 
walk-in or tripod-mounted) 
or an enclosed horse-drawn 
wagon equipped for sensitiz- 
ing and processing their pho- 
tographic plates. 



Photographs from the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad 

The construction of the 
transcontinental railroad 
from Omaha, Nebraska, to 
Sacramento, California, dur- 
ing the last half of the 1860s 
was the greatest engineering 
feat that Americans had un- 
dertaken. The joining of the 
Central Pacific and the Union 
Pacific Railroads at the little 
town of Promontory, Utah 
Territory, on May 10, 1869, 
ushered in a new era in the 
history of the West. As the 
rails inched westward, a 
number of photographers 
worked along the route, cre- 
ating an impressive record of 
the work, a sampling of 
which appears on these 
pages. The leaders of the 
Great Surveys used photog- 
raphers in much the same 
fashion. 1 Donner Pass and 
Lake from above Summit 
Tunnel in the Sierra Nevada, 
circa 1868. The snowsheds at 
right cover exposed sections 
of Central Pacific track. 2 
CP rail bending crew in Ten 
Mile Canvon, along the Hum- 
boldt River, J 868. 3 A Union 
Pacific train crosses the tem- 
porary trestle near Citadel 
Rock at Green River, Wyo- 
ming, late in 1868. 4 UP's 
construction boss, Gen. John 
S. Casement, stands beside 
his supply train near end of 
track in Wyoming, 1868. The 
wagon at right is photog- 
rapher A. J. Russell's travel- 
ing darkroom. 5 Chief engi- 
neers Samuel S. Montague, 
left, of the Central Pacific 
and Grenville M. Dodge of 
the Union Pacific shake 
hands folio wing the joining 
of the rails on May 10, 1869. 
The most famous of all west- 
ern railroad photographs, by 
A. J. Russell. 

•■+■#*■* • *,?■—> 

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Photographs from the King Survey 

The first of the Great Sur- 
veys of the West was the 
United States Geological Ex- 
ploration of the Fortieth Par- 
allel under the direction of 
Yale-trained geologist Clar- 
ence King. Begun in western 
Nevada on July 3, 1867, and 
continuing annually for the 
next 5 years, the King Survey 
examined and mapped the 
topography and geology of a 
100-mile-wide strip of land 
along the proposed route of 
the transcontinental railroad 
from the eastern slopes of 
the Sierra Nevada to the 
Front Range of the Rockies. 
These photographs in Utah 
and Idaho were taken by 
Timothy O Sullivan, who 
worked for King from 1867 
to 1869. 1 Summits of the 
Uinta Mountains, Utah, 1869. 
2 Wasatch Mountains, Lone 
Peak Summit, Utah, 1869. 
King named the peaks and 
lakes of the Uinta and 
Wasatch ranges after his sis- 
ter and her friends. 3 Horse- 
shoe Canyon, Green River, 
south of Flaming Gorge, 
Utah, 1868. 4 Salt Lake City, 
Utah, 1869. 5 Clarence King 
in a characteristic pose, 1867. 
6 Shoshone Falls, from the 
south bank of the Snake 
River, southern Idaho, 1868. 
O Sullivan called this "one of 
the most sublime of the 
Rocky Mountain scenes. " 


Photographs from the Hayden Survey 

The United States Geologi- 
cal Survey of the Territories 
headed by Ferdinand V. Hay- 
den was the biggest and 
best-known of the Great Sur- 
veys. From 1867 to 1 878 
Hayden and his men explored 
and catalogued the natural 
resources of Nebraska. Colo- 
rado. Wyoming, and Mon- 
tana. Among their accom- 
plishments were the creation 
of the Geological and Geo- 
graphical Atlas of Colorado 
(conta in ing pan o ra m ic \ > ie ws 
by artist-topographer Wil- 
liam H. Holmes), the discov- 
eries of Colorado s Mount of 
the Holy Cross and Mesa 
Verde 's ancient cliff dwell- 
ings, and the first official and 
extensive exploration of the 
Grand Teton region. Hay- 
den. one of the few explorers 
to view the West as a tourist 's 
paradise, was also one of the 
first to publicize the gran- 
deur of the Yellowstone area. 
William Henry Jackson s 
photographs, some of which 
are shown here and on the 
following two pages, sup- 
ported many of Hayden s 
ideas. 1 The Mount of the 
Holy Cross. August 24. 1873. 
2 One of the first Mesa 
Verde cliff dwellings discov- 
ered by the Hayden Survey 
in 1874. John Moss, who led 
the Hayden party to the 
ruins, stands at left while 
journalist Ernest Ingersoll 
makes notes. 3 The Hayden 
Survey enroute to the valley 
of the Yellowstone in 1871. 
Hayden is mounted second 
from the right. 


Hayden and Yellowstone National Park 

One of the results of the 
Hayden Survey was the es- 
tablishment in 1872 of the 
Yellowstone region as the 
first national park. In his later 
years Hayden tended to claim 
full credit for the park s crea- 
tion. Though this claim has 
long-since been disproven, it 
is true that without Hayden 's 
vigorous lobbying on behalf 
of the park s establishment, 
and William Henry Jackson 's 
Yellowstone photographs (a 
selection of which appears 
here), Congress might never 
have passed the necessary 
legislation. 1 Mammoth Hot 
Springs. The figure in the 
picture is artist Thomas 
Moran. 2 Old Faithful in 
eruption while members of 
the Hayden Survey look on. 
3 Yellowstone Lake. 4 Lower 
Falls of the Yellowstone. 


Photographs from the Wheeler Survey 

Lt. George M. Wheeler's 
United States Geographical 
Survey West of the 100th 
Meridian was created to 
maintain the Army s pres- 
ence in survey activities oth- 
erwise dominated by civil- 
ians, particularly Clarence 
King and Ferdinand Hay den. 
Associated with Wheeler as 
official photographer (and, 
at times, co-leader) during 
1871 and again in 1873 and 
1874 was Timothy O Sulli- 
van, who had earlier worked 
for King s 40th Parallel Sur- 
vey. Many of the lithographs 
that accompanied the Sur- 
vey 's final reports were de- 
rived from O Sullivan 's pho- 
tographs and Wheeler often 
commended his work. Wil- 
liam Henry Jackson called 
OSullivan "one of the best of 
the government photog- 
raphers. " 1 Death Valley, 
1871, where heat and lack of 
water brought the Survey to 
near-disaster while exploring 
this vast desert land. 2 The 
Colorado River from the rim 
of the Grand Canvon near 
Devils Anvil, 1871. Wheeler 
was delighted with OSulli- 
van s views of the Grand 
Canyon, calling the whole 
series "fine" and "interesting 
and instructive. "3 Camp of 
the Wheeler Survey near 
Belmont, Nevada, 1871. 4 
Mohave Indians of the lower 
Colorado River area. O Sulli- 
van thought the tribe "the 
finest specimens in all the 
West. "5 Ruins of White 
House, Canvon de Cuellv, 



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Photographs from the Powell Survey 

One of the great feats of 
western exploration was John 
Wesley Powell's expedition 
down the Colorado River in 
1869. As a result of this 
adventure, Powell was placed 
in charge of what would 
become the United States 
Geological and Geographical 
Survey of the Rocky Moun- 
tains and spent the next 
several years exploring this 
region. When Powell began 
his work in 1871, he hired 
E. O. Beaman to make the 
Survey 's photographic 
record. Beaman resigned in 
January 1872 and was re- 
placed by James Fennemore 
of Salt Lake City. Ill health, 
however, forced Fennemore 
to leave the Survey and John 
K. Millers became the official 
photographer. Hillers, who 
subsequently became the 
chief photographer of the 
U.S. Geological Survey, was 
the first to photograph the 
Grand Canyon, and his pho- 
tographs of the Indians and 
geological formations of the 
Colorado Plateau are now 
considered classics. Some of 
Hillers ' work, along with that 
of Beaman, appears here and 
on the following page. 1 John 
Wesley Powell and Paiute 
chief Tau-gu, 1872, by Hil- 
lers. 2 High Falls, Bullion 
Canvon, Utah, bv Hillers, 
1874. 3 Second Powell Colo- 
rado River expedition at 
Green River Station, Wyo- 
ming Territory, May 22, 1871, 
by Beaman. Powell is the 
taller of the two men stand- 
ing in the middle boat. 4 
Inner gorge of the Grand 
Canyon, circa 1872, by 



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Photographs from the Powell Survey 

5 Boats in Desolation Can- 
yon, Utah, during Powell's 
second Colorado River ex- 
pedition, August 1871, by 
Beaman. 6 Three Patriarchs, 
Zion Canyon, Utah, 1872, by 
Hillers. 7 Zuni Pueblo, New 
Mexico, 1879. This is one of 
a series of photographs made 
by Hillers while part of a 
special survey team sent by 
Powell as director of the 
Bureau of Ethnology to in- 
vestigate the archeological 
nuns and Pueblo Indians of 
Arizona and New Mexico. 
Powell's interest in ethnology 
is reflected in many of Hillers ' 


Armchair Explorations 

The literature on the exploration of the American 
West is vast and one could spend a lifetime reading in 
it without covering it all. Materials range from the 
accounts of the explorers themselves, which one 
should dip into for the sense of wonder and discovery 
they contain, to recent assessments by modern histo- 
rians. The books listed below are good secondary 
accounts, providing details on subjects only lightly 
dealt with in this booklet. Bibliographies in these 
works will give additional guidance to those who want 
to delve even deeper. 

Bartlett, Richard A., Great Surveys of the Ameri- 
can West. University of Oklahoma Press, 1962. Cov- 
ers the work of the Great Surveys under King, 
Hayden, Wheeler, and Powell. 

Chittenden, Hiram M., A History of the American 
Fur Trade of the Far West. Two volumes. Academic 
Reprints, 1954. First published in 1902 and still con- 
sidered the premier work on the subject. 

Current, Karen, and William R. Current, Photogra- 
phy and the Old West. Abrams, 1978. A perceptive 
overview, with lots of photographs, of the work of 
pioneer western photographers, including Jackson, 
(JSullivan, and Hillers. 

Goetzmann, William H., Exploration and Empire: 
The Explorer and the Scientist in the Winning of the 
American West. Knopf, 1971. A nearly exhaustive 
account of western exploration from Lewis and Clark 
to the Great Surveys. 

Hassrick, Peter, The Way West: Art of Frontier 
America. Abrams, 1977. A full pictorial introduction 
to the work of major artists of the 19th century West, 
with generous samplings from the works of Catlin, 
Bodmer, Miller, Bierstadt, Moran, and many others. 

Savage, Henry, Jr., Discovering America, 1700-1875. 
Harper and Row, 1979. An informed and highly 
readable survey, emphasizing the 19th century but 
including explorations before Lewis and Clark. 

Schwartz, Seymour I., and Ralph E. Ehrenberg, 
The Mapping of America. Abrams, 1980. A lavishly 
illustrated, detailed and analytical history of the map- 
ping of North America from 1500 to the present. 

Wilford, John Noble, The Mapmakers. Knopf, 1981. 
The story of the great pioneers in cartography from 
antiquity to the space age; includes a chapter on the 
mapping of the trans-Mississippi West. 



Abbott, Henry L., 78 
Anasazi, 79, 93 
Armijo, Antonio, 43 
Army, U.S., explorations by, 
65-83,90,92, 101, 106,120 
Ashley, William H., 28, 35, 
44,45, 47, 48, 49, 58; expedi- 
tions sponsored by, 44-50 
Astor John Jacob, 32, 33, 35, 

Astorians, 32-35, 44, 46 
Audubon, John James, 12, 
28,56, 57, 100-1; paintings by, 

Barlow, John Whitney, 90, 

Beaman, E. O., 88; photo- 
graphs by, 123, 124 
Beaver trade, 35, 41. 49 
Beckh, H. V. A.,31 
Becknell, William, 39 
Beckwith, Edward G., 78 
Benton, Thomas Hart, 65, 70, 

Bierstadt, Albert, 96-97, 100, 
101, L02; paintings by, 103 
Bodmer, Karl, 55, 59, 65, 100, 
101, 102; paintings by, 54, 62, 

Bonneville, Benjamin L. E., 
36-37, 53 

Brewer, William H., 83 
Bridger, Jim, 12,45,46,55 
Campbell, Richard, 43 
Campbell, Robert, 35, 46 
Canyon de Chelly, 79, 93, 
Carson, Kit, 55, 70, 72 
Catlin, George, 7, 12, 59, 
100, 102; painting by, 102 
Central Pacific Railroad, 79, 

Chaco Canyon, 93, 95 
Charbonneau, Toissant, 24 
Cheyenne Peak, 31 
Chouteau, Auguste, 28 
Chouteau, Pierre, 28 
Clamorgan, Jacques, 39 
Clark, William, 12,21,24, 26, 
108; map by, 108-09. See also 
Lewis and Clark Expedition 
Cliff Place (Mesa Verde), 95, 

Clyman, James, 45 
Colorado River, explorations 
of, 87, 88, 90, 92, 111, 120, 122 
Colter, John, 38 

"Colter's Hell," 38 
Davis, Jefferson, 74, 78 
Death Valley, 83, 92, 120 
Dellenbaugh, Frederick, 88 
Doane, Gustavus, 90, 93 
Dodge, Grenville M., 78, 

DonnerPass,78, 772 
Drouillard, George, 38, 42 
Dunbar, William, 30 
Eastman, Seth, 101 
Egloffstein, F. W. von, 75, 
79, 101 

Emory, William H., 74, 106 
Escalante, Padre Sylvestre 
Evans Pass, 78 
Europeans, travel and explo- 
ration by, 55-65 
Fitzpatrick, Tom, 45, 55, 70 
Forts: Astoria, 33, 35, 43, 
69; Clark, 55; Clatsop, 26, 27; 
Colvile, 50, 70; Fort Union 
Trading Post, 62; Gibson, 
53; Hall, 71; Laramie, 62, 
102; Leavenworth, 74; Man- 
uel's, 38; McKenzie, 59; Nez 
Perce, 44; Osage, 53; Sutter's, 
73; Union, 56; Vancouver, 
50, 63 

Fremont, John C, 28, 55, 
64, 79, 106, 110; explorations 
of, 12,65,66-67,68,70-72, 
73, 78 

Geological Survey, U.S., 89, 

Glacier Point (Yosemite), 98, 

Glass, Hugh, 45 
Grand Canyon of the Colora- 
do, 12, 20, 21 , 59, 79, 87, 92, 
104-05, 106-07, 120, 122-23 
Gray, Andrew B., 78 
"Great American Desert," 
15, 19,31,32 

Great Plains, 15, 19,20,30, 

Great Salt Lake, 42, 44, 50, 

Great Surveys, The, 82, 
83-95, 114-24. For individual 
surveys, see entries under 
Hayden, King, Powell, and 
Gunnison, John W., 78, 106 

Hayden, Ferdinand V., 80, 
92, 120; surveys of, 82, 83, 
776-77, 775-79 
Henry, Andrew, 45 
Hill, John Henry, 101 
Hillers, John K. ("Jack"), 
88, 110; photographs by, 

Holmes, William H., 88, 93, 
7(77, 116; Grand Canvon pan- 
orama by, 106-07 
Hudson, William L., 69, 70 
Humboldt River, 44 
Hunt, Wilson Price, 32-33 
Hunter, George, 30 
Independence, Mo., 51 
Indian tribes: Apache, 20; 
Arapaho, 20, 39; Ankara, 20, 
24, 32, 38, 45, 58; Assiniboin, 
58, 59; Bannock, 20; Black- 
foot, 20, 58, 59; Chemhuevi, 
20; Cheyenne, 20; Coman- 
che, 20, 51 ; Crow, 20, 45, 
46; Flathead, 20; Gosiute, 57; 
Gros Ventre, 20; Hopi, 79, 
93; Kansa, 20; Kiowa, 20; 
Mandan,20,24,59, 102; 
Mohave, 20, 47, 50, 120, 727; 
Navajo, 20, 79, 101; Omaha, 
20; Osage, 20, 30; Otoe, 20, 
58; Paiute, 20, 722; Papago, 
20; Pawnee, 20, 30; Pima, 
20; Pueblo, 20, 124; Salish, 
33; Sioux, 20, 24, 58; Ute, 
20,78; Yaqui, 20; Yuma, 42 
Irving, Washington, 28, 41 , 

Ives, Joseph Christmas, 59, 

Jackson, David, 45, 50 
Jackson, William Henry, 92, 
93,99,77a 116, 118; photo- 
graphs by, 94, 116-19 
Jefferson, Thomas, 8-9, 18, 
19,21, 24, 25, 30, 32, 35; explo- 
rations sponsored or encour- 
aged by, 9, 19-35 
Kane, Paul, 101 
Kern, Edward, 73 
Kern, Richard H., 75, 101 
King, Clarence, 80, 86, 89, 
7 15, 1 20; surveys of, 83, 84-85. 
86,89-90,93, 101,107, 110, 

Langford, Nathaniel P., 90 
Ledvard, John, 9 


Numbers in italics refer to photographs, illustrations, or maps. 

Lewis, Meriwether, 19, 21, 

24, 26, 30. See also Lewis and 
Clark Expedition 
Lewis and Clark Expedition, 

Lisa, Manuel, 28, 38, 44,45, 

Long, Stephen FL, 15, 28, 
31, 106; explorations of, 12, 
Louisiana Purchase, 9, 19,21, 
30, 106 

Louisiana Territory, 28, 30, 

MacKenzie, Alexander, 19 
Macomb, John N., 79 
Mammoth Hot Springs 
(Yellowstone), 118 
Maps and mapmakers, 19,51, 
Mason, Charlie, 95 
Maximilien, Alexander Philip, 
Prince of Wied-Neuwied, 12, 
54, 55, 59, 100 

McKenzie, Donald, 33, 43-44 
McTavish, John George, 33 
Meek, Fielding B., 80, 92 
Mesa Verde, 79, 94,95, 116, 

Michaux, Andre, 9 
Miller, Alfred Jacob, 12, 35, 
41 , 63, 65, 100; paintings by, 
34, 40, 48-49, 62, 102 
Mollhausen, Heinrich B., 

Montague, Samuel S., 1 12, 

Moran, Thomas, 90, 93, 100, 
101, 104, 118; paintings by, 
91, 104-05 

Morse, Jedediah, 19 
Moss, John, 116, 117 
Mount of the Holy Cross, 93, 

Mountain men, 34, 35, 40; ex- 
plorations by, 36-37, 38-55 
Muybridge, Eadweard, 53, 
99, 102; photographs by, 52, 

Navy, U.S., explorations by, 

Newberry, John S., 12,79 
Nuttall, Thomas, 28, 56, 58. 

I Dgden, Peter Skene, 44, 51 

"Old Faithful" (Yellowstone), 


Old Spanish Trail, 55, 71 

Old Spanish Trail (Armijo's), 


Oregon Trail, 35, 63, 68, 70, 
72, 100 

O'Sullivan, Timothy, 92, 110, 
111, 114, 120; photographs 
by,///. 114-15. 120-21 
Pacific Railroad, surveys for, 
construction of, 78-79, 112-13 
Parke, John G., 78, 80 
Pattie, James Ohio, 42 
Pattie, Sylvester, 42-43 
Peale, Titian Ramsay, 100 
Photographers, 53, 88, 92, 
93,99, 102, 110-11, 112,114, 
116,118,120,122, 124 
Pike, Zebulon M., 28, 29; ex 
plorations of, 9, 22-23, 30-31 , 

Pike's Peak, 12,30,31 
Pope, John B., 78 
Powell, John Wesley, 55, 87, 
92,122, 123, 124; surveys 
of, 84-85, 87-89,93,95, 101, 
104, 107, 110, 122-24 
Prescott, Ariz., 55 
Promontory, Utah, 79, 1 12 
Provost, Etienne, 42, 46 
Raynolds, William F., 80 
Rendezvous system, 41 , 46-47, 
48-49, 50, 53, 63, 65 
"Rio Buenaventura" (myth- 
ical), search for, 20, 32, 47, 

Robinson, Sanford, 101 
Ross, Alexander, 46 
Russell, Andrew J., 1 12 
Ruxton, Frederick, 41 , 59 
Sacagawea, 26, 58 
St. Louis, 26, 28-29 
Salt Lake City, 88, 114, 115 
Salt Lake Desert, 81 
Sante Fe, 20, 39 
Santa Fe Trail, 39 
Seymour, Samuel, 31 , 100 
Shoshone Falls, 114, 7/5 
Silliman, Benjamin, 86-87 
Simpson, James Hervey, 79, 
80, 81, 106, 110 
Sitgreaves, Lorenzo, 79 
Smith, Jedediah, 12,44,47. 
89; travels of, 36-37, 43, 45-47. 

Sohon, Gustave, 75, 101 
South Pass, 35, 38, 46, 51 , 53, 

Sparks, Thomas, 30 
Stanley, John Mix, 75, 101 
Stansbury, Howard, 78, 101 
Stephens, Isaac I., 74-75, 78, 

Stewart, Sir William Drum- 
mond, 12,59,62-65,70 
Stuart, Robert, 35 
Sublette, William, 28, 35, 45, 
50, 63 

Umpqua "massacre," 50 
Union Pacific Railroad, 78, 

Union Pass, 33, 46 
Walker, Joseph Reddeford, 
53; explorations by, 36-37, 
Walker Pass, 53 
Warren, Gouverneur K., 107; 
master map of the West by, 
Washburn, Henry D., 90 
Wetherill, Richard, 95 
Wheeler, George M., surveys 
oi, 84-85, 90, 92 93, 101,107, 
110,7//. 120-21 
Whipple, Amiel Weeks, 58-59, 
78, 106 

Whitney, Joseph D., 83, 86, 

Wilhelm, Frederick Paul, 
Duke of Wiirttemberg, travels 
of, 56, 58, 60; Western collec- 
tion of, 58, 60-61 
Wilkes, Charles, naval expe- 
dition of, 66-67, 68-70, 71 
Williams, Bill, 78 
Wyeth, Nathaniel, 56, 63 

Yellowstone National Park, 

38, 51, 91; exploration and 

establishment of, 90, 92-93, 

Mb J 18-19 

Yellowstone region, 12, 63, 


Yosemite, 12,83,86,93, 

96-97, 98, 99, 102, 103 

Young, John J., 81, 101 

Zion Canyon, 88, 124 

For sale by the Superintendent of Doc- 
uments, U.S. Government Printing Of- 
fice. Washington. DC 20402. Stock 
Number 024-005-00834-9. 

"fc GPO: 1982-361-611/102. 


Handbook 116 

The National Park Service 
expresses its appreciation to 
all those persons who made 
the preparation and produc- 
tion of this handbook pos- 
sible. The Service also grate- 
fully acknowledges the finan- 
cial support given this hand- 
book project by the Jefferson 
National Expansion Memorial 
Association, a nonprofit 
group that assists interpre- 
tive efforts at Jefferson Na- 
tional Expansion Memorial. 


Richard A. Bartlett, who 
wrote about the "Lure of the 
West" in Part 1, is professor 
of American history at Flor- 
ida State University, Tal- 
lahassee, and has written ex- 
tensively on the westward 

William H. Goetzmann, au- 
thor of "Explorer, Mountain 
Man, and Scientist" in Part 
2, is a professor of history at 
the University of Texas at 
Austin, where he also heads 
the American Studies Pro- 
gram. His books include 
Army Exploration in the 
American West, 1803-1863, 
and Exploration and Empire: 
The Explorer and Scientist 
in the Winning of the Amer- 
ican West. 


The Bancroft Library, Uni- 
versity of California, Berke- 
ley, 73; Henry B. Beville, 
103; Buffalo Bill Historical 
Center, Cody, Wyoming, 40, 
41 (pistol); University of Cal- 
ifornia, Berkeley, 1 15 (top, 

right); University of Califor- 
nia, Los Angeles, 52; Cali- 
fornia Historical Society 
Library, 96-97; Colorado 
Historical Society, 90 (Lang- 
ford), 94; Culver Pictures, 
Inc., 64; Denver Public Li- 
brary, 53 (Bonneville), 98; R. 
R. Donnelley Cartographic 
Service, 22-23, 36-37, 66-67, 
76-77, 84-85; Dick Dorrance, 
27; East Hampton Free Li- 
brary, 101 (Moran); Gil- 
crease Institute of History & 
Art, 100 (Miller); Henry E. 
Huntington Library and Art 
Gallery, 112 (top); Independ- 
ence National Historical 
Park, 24, 30, 31; Internation- 
al Museum of Photography, 
George Eastman House, Ro- 
chester, NY., 110 (O'Sul- 
livan), 111 (Camera and ac- 
cessories), 121 (bottom); 
Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, 
cover, 53 (Walker), 62 
(center), 102 (center & 
bottom); The Kansas State 
Historical Society, Topeka, 
45 (Bridger), 47; Kit Carson 
Memorial Foundation, New 
Mexico, 72; Russell Lamb, 
10-11; Library of Congress, 
57, 58, 59, 68, 74, 75, 80, 101 
(Bodmer), 107 (Holmes), 108 
(bottom), 110 (Hillers), 115 
(top, left, & bottom), 117 
(top), 118 (top), 120 (bottom), 
121 (top, right), 124 (bottom); 
Missouri Historical Society, 
St. Louis, 25, 38, 41 (beaver 
hat), 45 (newspaper ad); 
David Meunch, 4-5, 6, 13, 14; 
Museum of the Fur Trade, 
Chadron, Neb., 41 (beaver 
trap); National Archives, 81, 
82, 92(Wheeler), 109 (Warren 
& Wheeler maps), 110 (Jack- 

son), 111 (stereograph), 114, 
116 (top), 118 (bottom), 119 
(bottom), 120 (top), 121 
(top, left), 122-23, 124 (top & 
center); National Collection 
of Fine Arts, Smithsonian 
Institution, 91; National Mu- 
seum of American Art, Smith- 
sonian Institution, 102 (top), 
104-5; National Park Service, 
21, 87; National Portrait Gal- 
lery, Smithsonian Institution, 
33, 100 (Catlin); New York 
Public Library, 54, 69; North 
Dakota Tourism Promotion, 
Bismarck, 26; Oregon Histor- 
ical Society, 44; Peregrine 
Smith Books, Layton, Utah, 
106-7 (Holmes panorama); 
Public Archives of Canada, 
62 (top); St. Louis Art Mu- 
seum, 16-17, 28-29; Staat- 
liches Museum fiir Natur- 
kunde, Stuttgart, Germany, 
60-61; U.S. Geological Sur- 
vey, 89, 92 (Hayden); Union 
Pacific Railroad Museum 
Collections, 78, 113 (top); 
Walker Art Gallery, Liver- 
pool, England, 56; Walters 
Art Gallery, Baltimore, 34, 
62 (bottom); The Whaling 
Museum, New Bedford, 
101 (Bierstadt); The White 
House, 18; University of 
Wyoming, American Her- 
itage Center, 48-49; Yale 
University Library, 108-9 
(Clark map), 112 (bottom), 
113 (bottom). 

National Park Service 

U.S. Department of the Interior 

As the Nation's principal conservation agency, the 
Department of the Interior has responsibility for most 
of our nationally owned public lands and natural re- 
sources. This includes fostering the wisest use of our 
land and water resources, protecting our fish and wild- 
life, preserving the environmental and cultural val- 
ues of our national parks and historical places, and 
providing for the enjoyment of life through outdoor 
recreation. The Department assesses our energy and 
mineral resources and works to assure that their de- 
velopment is in the best interest of all our people. The 
Department also has a major responsibility for Amer- 
ican Indian reservation communities and for people 
who live in island territories under U.S. administration. 

•J It 

the American West 



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